“’Twas the night before Christmas.” You’re probably familiar with this famous opening phrase of Clement C. Moore’s poem. Several lines later, the poet writes that the children were nestled in bed, “while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.” Things haven’t changed much since this poem was written in 1882: Most children still look forward to holiday treats.
Like the traditional sugarplum (a hard candy), most holiday treats are loaded with sugar. So what’s a parent to do when their child with diabetes yearns for sweets, which are so abundant during the holiday season? Our answer is: let them … within reason, of course.
Here are some tips for helping your child safely join in the holiday fun.
While planning for the holidays:
- Rely on pros. Ask your child’s diabetes healthcare team for recommendations on taking extra insulin to accommodate extra holiday carbs.
- Check more often. While your child is off her normal schedule and/or eating unfamiliar foods, check her blood glucose levels more frequently.
- Burn off carbs. Encourage your child to be active during the holidays. Exercise may help her body burn off excess glucose from carbs.
While your child attends parties:
- Ask for assistance. If you won’t be at a holiday event your child attends, recruit an adult who can oversee your child’s sugar intake and watch for signs of sugar overload.
- Look up info. If your child is old enough, have her carry along a handy carb counting guide, such as “Living the Low Carb Life Pocket Carb Counter.”
- Inform the hosts. Tell the parents who are hosting a party about your child’s diabetes, and provide them with emergency phone numbers. Briefly explain diabetes management to them so that they’ll know what’s going on if your child pulls out an insulin pen or meter.
- Take some treats. When attending a holiday party, take along a healthy treat to share. That way, your child will feel more included in the group.
- Offer your help. If your child is young, volunteer to help the host. Besides being present to monitor your child’s diabetes, you’ll be able to give the host assistance. But, be sure to give your child space so that they can have their fun with friends.
While at home or at a relative’s house:
- Focus on non-sweets. Fill your child’s Christmas stocking with non-food items. If hosting a party, forgo the candy and stuff treat bags with small balls, crayons, yoyos and other toys.
- Learn to substitute. Bake cakes and other desserts by substituting Stevia for sugar.
- Emphasize fun activities. Instead of spotlighting treats and cookie baking, concentrate on holiday activities like Christmas tree shopping or decorating your home.
It’s good for your child to feel like a normal kid who is part of seasonal traditions. Fortunately, your child with diabetes can indulge (within reason) and enjoy the holidays just like other kids. Just make sure you plan ahead for including cookies and other treats into your child’s meal plan and make sure she gets adequate amounts of insulin to “compensate” for additional treats.
For additional information about diabetes, visit Akron Children’s Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology.