Halloween a challenge for diabetic kids

By Kate Kompas

St. Cloud Times

ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- Bradley Kortenbusch has diabetes, so he can't gorge on a bagful of candy the way many kids do on Halloween.

But his parents found an ingenious way to make the holiday fun for him. Melrose residents Steve and Rita Kortenbusch buy their 11-year-old son's candy from him -- a nickel for every piece.

"It worked out really well for us," Steve Kortenbusch said.


Some parents mistakenly think their diabetic children have to sit out Halloween because of sugar overloads. That's not true, and it could be harmful to them to skip such a fun tradition, said Karen Reisdorf, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator.

"If they have a child with newly diagnosed diabetes, that Halloween is the first time besides the witches, ghosts and goblins that they're thinking about the candy, candy, candy and what are we going to do about it," she said.

Type I diabetics have to stick to careful meal plans because they have to keep track of their carbohydrates. That's because their bodies do not produce insulin that balances their blood sugar, according to the American Diabetes Association.

When diabetics eat carbs, like the kind found in candy bars, their blood glucose levels go higher and they need more insulin. If they don't get enough, they can have complications.

When Julie and Jeff Frank discovered their 9-year-old son, Jade, has diabetes, they did their research to find out what he could eat safely. He was diagnosed about two years ago.

Jade is pretty good with sharing his candy with his younger sisters, Jeff Frank said. The family lives near Luxemburg.

"When he wants to eat something, he lets us know," Jeff Frank said.

Here are some guidelines offered by Reisdorf:


Do trick or treat. For many kids, the best part of Halloween is dressing up. "What we try to promote as much as possible is a normal life," Reisdorf said. "Kids with diabetes should be able to participate in these upcoming holidays like everybody else. The event itself is to be celebrated."

Diabetic kids can have candy -- in moderation, just like with other children. When they bring back their stocked bag, pick out several of their favorite items and figure out how to work them in their meal plans for the next few weeks. Candies such as suckers have lower carb counts than chocolate bars and are usually "freebies" in a diabetic's plan.

Either store the extra candies -- most have long shelf lives -- or "buy" them from your kids, Reisdorf suggested.

Consider some alternative treats, such as fruit snacks and granola bars.

Keep in mind that trick or treating usually means a lot of brisk walking. Adjust the kids' meal plans accordingly.

For Type II diabetics, inactivity and obesity are big concerns. The same sort of rules apply: moderation, and trade fattier foods such as chocolate bars for suckers and jelly beans.

Don't act like anything is forbidden -- it will just make them want the candy more.

Halloween comes only once a year, so enjoy it. Plus, many kids grow out of it fast. Take Bradley Kortenbusch; this year he'll stay at home and give out candy -- and try to scare trick-or-treaters.

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