Sugar cookies, candy canes, chocolate gelt… In December, you don’t need to be a kid in a candy store — the candy comes to you! Luckily, these treats aren’t strictly forbidden for kids with type 1 diabetes, but they must be eaten in moderation. When allowed reasonable amounts of sweets instead of suffering an outright ban, kids are less likely to feel deprived or left out — and less tempted to sneak contraband snacks without your consent.
“No food is off limits,” says Jennifer Miller, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at La Rabida Children’s Hospital in Illinois, “But you have to count the carbs and then take insulin to cover them.” Be sure to check your child’s blood sugar often throughout the day and bring along plenty of insulin when spending it away from home. “You have to plan this out beforehand. It can’t just be a sweets free-for-all,” says Miller.
Because your child will likely be indulging in dessert after the holiday dinner, be sure the meal itself isn’t too carb-heavy. “Try to serve your child a balanced plate so it’s not mostly starches like stuffing, which can affect blood sugar as much as sweets can,” says certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian Marlisa Brown. “For example, if your child had two types of potatoes, stuffing, pasta, corn, and cranberry sauce, everything is a carbohydrate, which can easily cause your child’s sugars to go up. Instead, offer a variety — like turkey and one type of potato along with green beans, zucchini, and a salad.”
For dessert itself, consider making (and offering to bring along, if eating away from home) a favorite lower-carb dessert, such as sugar-free gelatin, pudding, or cheesecake. Another idea is to make substitutions to your favorite recipes; for example, the American Diabetes Association recommends replacing up to half of the sugar in a recipe with a sugar substitute. Or use diabetic cookbooks, which are loaded with recipes for festive low-carb desserts such as pumpkin pie and ricotta torte. (For future holidays, ask your healthcare provider for a copy of Dishing It Up Disney Style: A Cookbook for Families with Type 1 Diabetes.)
Still nervous about those holiday meals? Consulting with a registered dietitian and/or certified diabetes educator ahead of time can ease your fears, says Brown. “You can create a meal plan and insulin plan ahead of time based on what will be served,” she says. That way, you may feel more in control — and even more ready to celebrate with good food and good friends.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.