The assumption often is, “Grasshopper can’t eat candy because he has type 1 diabetes.”
The short answer is, “He can and does eat candy. There are times sugar can literally save his life.” The long answer is, “It gets a bit complicated.”
For many families with a child newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, Halloween and the holidays that follow are difficult to navigate. Now that we have several years under our SpiBelts, I’m feeling like we are better able to deal with it. We don’t do Halloween much differently than we would if we weren’t a T1D family, even beginning with his first one after diagnosis. We allow our son some candy and we dose him with insulin for it. We go trick or treating. Grasshopper gathers the treats given by generous neighbors, whether the treats are candy or toy treasures. He isn’t allowed to eat any until we get back home and check it out. My parents and Mr. Mister’s parents had the same rule for safety when we were kids. At home we sort the goody pile into lollipop treats, fast acting sugar treats, chocolates and non-food treats. Grasshopper is allowed to choose 1 piece of candy to eat that night and the rest we bag for later. Of course eating the candy involves figuring out how many grams of carbohydrates are in the candy and giving Grasshopper insulin for those carbs via his insulin pump. It is the same process for candy, apples, bananas, bread, corn, green peas, pizza, or anything else with carbs. Thankfully, there are handy charts created by organizations like Beyond Type 1 that list types, sizes, and carb counts for most Halloween candies. Organizations like Calorie King and My Fitness Pal make finding nutritional information easier too. I use them daily. Find them in the iTunes app store here: Calorie King & My Fitness Pal.
From the Halloween candy that Grasshopper brings home we set aside some of the fast acting sugars and we save them for bringing his blood sugar up if it gets too low. While his usual low blood sugar treatment of choice is 2-4 Annie’s Gummy Fruit Snacks, after Halloween we have Starburst, Nerds, Skittles, Smarties, LifeSavers and many other choices. The chocolate items he is allowed to have a piece or two at a time with a snack or with a meal. I have tended to shy away from the lollipops because dosing for them can get tricky. They take a long time to eat and it is difficult to match the timing in dosing with insulin and the eating of the lollipop, especially since he is likely to take three licks and then decide he doesn’t want it.
On an everyday basis we don’t eat a lot of candy. If he is going to eat some candy we usually incorporate a piece as a part of a snack or meal with protein, fat and fiber which helps to lessen any rise in blood sugar if there is any. If Grasshopper’s blood sugar is in range (for him right now that is between 70-150), we will give him insulin for candy that he eats. If his blood sugar is high or rising we give him insulin to bring his blood sugar down and we will wait for the insulin to start working before he is allowed to eat. If his blood sugar is too high we will delay candy until a time when his blood sugar is lower and we’ll have him eat lower carbohydrate foods instead like cheese, meat, nuts, or vegetables.
Grasshopper had a great time this Halloween running from house to house with his friends. We ate dinner, suited up and walked around the block trailing behind excited kindergartners. Sunshine and her friend with food allergies, Acorn, (as she calls him) rode in our wagon. It was interesting to watch the Dexcom as we walked. The spike we saw on the graph was more than likely caused by Grasshoppers’ excitement. He had dinner and we were trick or treating from 6-7:30.
After my initial reluctance about Halloween when Grasshopper was diagnosed almost five years ago now, I feel we understand how to deal with it now. Bring on the holidays!