Halloween, Kids, and Diabetes: A Different Kind of Treat Does the Trick

Halloween and candy…candy and Halloween. No other holiday is soinextricably tied to sweets. It wasn't very long ago that I too was handing outReese's Cups and Snickers bars to the troops of tiny ghosts and ballerinas whocrowded around our door chirping "trick or treat!"

That was before my seven-year-old son Danny was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.Suddenly, food choices were front and center, and I was reading nutritionallabels religiously. Ever read the ingredients of a candy bar? Not only doescandy send blood sugars soaring, but the chemicals, artificial colors andflavorings, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners aren't good for anyone.

I couldn't imagine repeating our time-honored Halloween ritual: the childrenhappily trudging home shouldering pillowcases sagging with candy and then eatingtheir way through their hoard for weeks, until I finally became disgusted andthrew the leftovers out.

I knew we had to change our Halloween ways, but I wasn't sure how to limit thecandy without upsetting the family. My daughter Jess, then eleven years old,gave me an idea while we were in a drugstore. We secretly bought many smallobjects that Danny would like, such as Matchbox cars, fancy pencils, baseballcards, a spider ring, and a deck of cards.

As Halloween approached, we called on each of our neighbors and asked if theywould be willing to give Danny one of these items when he arrived at their door,explaining that then he would have something to enjoy while his friends wereeating candy. The neighbors were happy to help, and Jess liked being aco-conspirator.

Next, my husband Brian and I set about preparing our children to willingly giveup their precious candy at the end of Halloween night. It was not an easy task.During supper in late October I said, "Brian, have you ever read the nutritionalinformation on the side of a candy bar?" I proceeded to read the list aloudwhile the kids pretended they weren't listening. Next, I talked about how muchinsulin the pancreas has to make to cover such large amounts of sugar. The kidswere strikingly unimpressed, however, and Danny piped up with, "You know, Mom,it's only once a year."

At the end of the meal, Brian played his trump card. He casually explained thathis co-workers always have full dishes of candy on their desks for anyone toeat, but that he never had any candy to offer in return. He said that he wouldconsider buying the children's Halloween candy in order to bring it to hisoffice as a surprise for his colleagues. Then he offered each child ten centsper candy bar, on the condition that they turn over their entire stash before hewent to work the morning after Halloween.

That was a big mistake. The chance ofturning a profit sent the kids trick-or-treating with renewed passion. Theymanaged to sweet-talk our neighbors into astounding levels of generosity, andBrian ended up paying them a small fortune. (Next year, he cut his offer inhalf.)

Despite Brian's financial miscalculation, Halloween turned out to be a greatsuccess. Danny and Jess found trick-or-treating as exciting as ever, and at theend of the night, Danny had many things to keep. Later I found Danny's friendsinspecting the surprising items in his bag, looking at his diabetes in a newlight.

We allowed the kids a small amount of candy during Halloween evening, andat one point Danny came over and told Brian he needed a shot because he'd eatentwo pieces. At bedtime, however, and at midnight when most little ghosts andwitches were sound asleep, Danny's numbers were fine. We'd survived our firstHalloween.

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