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Can you eat candy on Halloween if you have diabetes?

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The thought of skyrocketing blood sugar is certainly spooky when you have diabetes. But there are ways to treat yourself safely. Here’s how.
Written by Kim Robinson
Updated on October 29, 2021

If you have diabetes, or if you have a child who does, Halloween can feel like a bit of a bummer. Well, at least the stuff-your-face-with-candy part of it.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. A little preparation and some smart candy choices can make Halloween less tricky — and more of a treat.

(Another thing that will help? Having all of the medications you need to balance your blood sugar at a price you can afford. See how we can help you save today.)

Can you eat candy if you have diabetes?

Yes, small treats, including candy, can be part of a healthy overall diet, says the American Diabetes Association.

Candy contains carbohydrates, which your body breaks down into a type of sugar called glucose. That glucose eventually makes its way into your bloodstream so it can be delivered to cells for energy. When you have diabetes, your body has a hard time getting glucose out of your blood and into your cells. As a result, your blood sugar levels can rise.

That doesn’t mean foods that contain carbs are taboo if you have diabetes. (In fact, many carbohydrate foods are full of good-for-you fiber, vitamins and minerals.)

“It’s simply a matter of keeping the portion sizes appropriate, eating candy with meals to create more balance and being aware of your insulin needs if that’s part of your care plan,” says Lori Zanini. She’s a registered dietitian, certified diabetes care and education specialist and the author of The Diabetes Cookbook and Meal Plan for the Newly Diagnosed.

One way to do that: Track how many carbs you’re eating.

It’s a good idea to eat about the same amount of carbs at every meal to keep your blood sugar levels steady, says Zanini. The appropriate amount of carbs varies from person to person. It depends on factors such as your insulin response, activity level and just plain hunger. So talk to your health care team about what your carb plan should be.

Once you have your plan in place, you can fit those treats into your day in a smart way. If you know that most fun-size candy bars have between 10 and 15 grams of carbs, for instance, you can be deliberate about allowing for that extra amount in your day. That info will help you be extra diligent about blood sugar checks or adjusting your insulin as needed.

(Read up on some techy ways to make managing blood sugar easier.)

Which candy is best?

Well, which kind do you like? As Zanini says, it’s really about keeping the portions in check. That might mean mini versions of your favorites. For example, 1 fun-size Butterfinger bar or 3 mini Hershey’s Almond bars both contain 15 grams of carbohydrates.

Or you can opt for Toby Smithson’s favorite year-round treat: individual squares of dark chocolate that have 5 grams of carbs or less. Smithson is a registered dietitian and a certified diabetes care and education specialist. (She’s also been thriving with type 1 diabetes for more than 50 years.)

Chocolate, especially chocolate with nuts, is often a better choice than candy that is simply made of sugar. “Chocolate contains fat, which digests slower than the simple carbohydrates in regular sugar,” Zanini says.

If you want more bang for your carb counts, diabetes research funding organization JDRF has a list of several popular Halloween candies and how many carbs they contain. And don’t forget to take some time to truly savor the treat. Eating mindfully can help you get more enjoyment from your food — and help you to not overeat.

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Is sugar-free candy a better option?

Sugar-free candies have a few potential benefits over regular candy. For one, they have fewer carbs and, of course, less sugar. And they probably won’t raise your blood sugar as much when eaten in small amounts.

But even if a candy is labeled “sugar-free,” it can still contain carbohydrates, calories and fats, Smithson says. “Keep in mind that sugar-free doesn’t mean ‘feel free to eat as much as you want,’” she says.

There are 2 types of sugar-free substitutes: nonnutritive sweeteners and sugar alcohols. Nonnutritive sweeteners typically have almost no calories or carbs. Some examples are aspartame, sucralose and stevia. Sugar alcohols, meanwhile, such as erythritol, sorbitol and xylitol, usually have about half as many calories and carbs as regular sugar.

Because some sugar-free candies still contain carbs or calories, it’s important to read the nutrition labels and be mindful of portion sizes. Eating too much of a food with sugar alcohols can also cause digestive issues such as bloating, gas and diarrhea.

Tips for keeping candy temptation at bay

So it’s okay to treat yourself with candy — in a smart and mindful way that fits into your diabetes care goals. Still, there are simple things you can do to set yourself up for success on Halloween.

Keep candy out of your house

It’s much easier to resist the siren call of candy if it’s not in your house. But what if you want to buy candy for trick-or-treaters? Buy it close to Halloween and don’t buy your favorite kind. When the night is over, donate, ditch or gift any leftover candy.

Keep other snacks on hand

To help you feel like you’re not missing out, make a few of your own snacks to nosh on. That could include anything from sliced apples with peanut butter to cheesy popcorn to no-bake energy balls made with oats, nuts, butter and seeds.

Stock up on non-edible treats

If you have a child with diabetes, or you just don’t want candy in your house, consider buying “non-edible treats like stickers, pencils and tattoos,” Zanini says.

Summon the “Switch Witch”

If you have a child with diabetes, a food allergy that makes candy problematic or you just don’t want candy lingering in your home, invite the Switch Witch to stop over. She’s a friendly witch who whisks away extra Halloween candy and leaves a gift or 2 behind in its place.

One treat worth having is money saved on your medications. Download the Optum Perks app for discounts up to 80% at the pharmacy.

Additional sources
Carbohydrate overview:
American Diabetes Association
How to count carbohydrates: American Diabetes Association