There is a lot for people with diabetes to consider when Halloween rolls around. We chatted with members of the diabetes community and our moderators Jewels Doskicz and Chris “Clem” Clements, both T1Ds, during this week’s community discussion on what Halloween is really like when you have diabetes.
Q. The scariest thing that has happened since my diabetes diagnosis was ___?
A. Jewels: Giving myself glucagon after an unintended dumping of insulin from a pump malfunction while camping. Not fun.
Clem: Deciding to have children! Turned out okay, I guess.
• Being the cause of landing an airplane in Charlotte on its way to Orlando ranks right up there with the scariest.
• Scariest thing since diagnosis, definitely DKA episodes.
• Got low and passed out while on a school trip to D.C. The teacher spent all day in a hospital with me.
Q. Describe the first Halloween after your diabetes diagnosis.
A. Jewels: Having been diagnosed when sugar was taboo, trick-or-treating wasn't for me anymore. So sad.
Clem: I don't much remember my first Halloween after T1D started. I imagine I was frantically trying to figure out how to do it right!
• I don't recall, but probably trick-or-treating and making a solemn promise to only eat candy when low. I’m sure I cheated a little.
• Our first Halloween was three years ago. My son with diabetes was excited about the Legos he got in exchange for candy.
• I don't remember my first Halloween, but I do remember always getting to trade in candy to my parents for money.
Q. When I eat candy and I’m not low, I feel like __ because ____?
A. Jewels: If I eat candy and I'm not low, I feel off because I reserve treats for lows.
Clem: #winning because my diabetes management is good, and it's my choice.
• I am cheating, and I feel awful in about 15 minutes.
• I feel guilty because it'll spike my blood sugars and I don't like candy enough anymore for it to be worth that.
• When my son eats candy and he's not low he feels great because it's Lily’s Sweets, and they are super low carb.
Q. How do you bring the fun back into Halloween when living with diabetes?
A. Jewels: My daughter with T1D's birthday is on Halloween, go figure. We have cake and then treat-or-treat. Run it off.
Clem: So much fun to be had. Treats are just part of it. Scary movies, games, fun healthy snack options for the party.
• Make every day, Halloween or not, fun. Peaks and troughs of stress and parties don't work for my blood sugar.
• We make low-carb candy and focus on decorating the house and garden.
• Making my own costume, dressing up, red wine, pumpkin carving, apple picking. Candy isn't even in the top 10 fun parts anymore.
Q. What are your most satisfying treats when trying to balance health and holidays?
A. Jewels: Chocolate!
Clem: Cheese, veggies, and sugar-free Jell-O in a brain-shaped mold I have.
• Low-carb cheesecake!
• Whatever's happening: Christmas cookies, birthday cake, etc. I don't do anything for Halloween or Easter anymore. Regular days: donuts!
• I'll eat the heck out of all the meat and cheese you've got. It doesn't have to be sweet to be tasty.
• A good strategy I have when holiday baking is to freeze stuff like cookie dough to enjoy in moderation.
Q. What’s the best way to use a pumpkin?
A. Jewels: I love roasting pumpkin seeds. So healthy and seasonal.
Clem: Totally pumpkin seeds!
• Turn it into a pie and cover it with whipped cream!
• Bake it. Butter it. Spice it. Eat it.
• Not a huge pumpkin fan, but baked goods. Also, folding it into Greek yogurt with a bit of sweetener.
Q. How has diabetes influenced what you hand out to trick-or-treaters?
A. Jewels: I've been “that mom” handing out granola bars and raisins.
Clem: It hasn't changed drastically, but I am more mindful. I try to have something low-sugar or no-sugar on hand just in case. Hope to accommodate. I’m considering T1D and celiac options along with regular stuff, and a sign on my door, "T1D or celiac? Ask for choices!" or something.
I can't say that it has. I'm not about to ask kids if they have diabetes, and if they do, adjustments are up to parents.
We focus on giving trinkets. We are much more aware of the health impact of sugar.
Last Halloween we gave away some sugar-free candies, and kids without T1D liked them.
Q. Should people think about the diverse needs of kids—diabetes, allergies, etc. When choosing treats to hand out? Why or why not?
A. Jewels: I say think healthier treats. Kids love more than candy, and they learn to trade for what works for them.
Clem: Thanks to this question, I just went to my neighborhood Facebook page to ask if there are kids with dietary restrictions.
• I participate in the teal pumpkin project. You place a teal colored pumpkin on your porch, and people know you have non-food treats.
• My grandsons have peanut allergies and egg allergies; their parents do a good job of post-trick-or-treat monitoring.
• I get frustrated with class parties, where candy eating is part of the games they play.
• Ideally, yes, but I just don't think we can cater to everyone. Parents can be creative to make sure their kids don't feel left out.
Q. What do you do with all the candy that remains after Halloween?
A. Jewels: Slowly take handfuls to work, and share the carbs. Where I live, dentists collect candy from kids and pay them by the pound, then send it to the troops.
Clem: It sits for months mostly untouched, and then it's off to the trash bin. Very few types of candy make the cut.
• I keep it to treat lows. Generally perfect portions for that. If I'm lucky, it'll last until Christmas.
• I honestly throw it away! Most of it is really bad for any human being!
• Not much around anymore, but it’s good for lows or dumping in the work kitchen.
How are you planning on celebrating Halloween this year? Join this conversation by commenting below.