While diabetes can sometimes be difficult for adults to manage, it can be even more difficult for children. With all the sweet foods and carbohydrates available, limiting sweets can pose a problem for many children with diabetes. Although your child’s diabetes is a serious health condition, it doesn’t mean your child can’t enjoy an occasional piece of candy.
Candy isn’t necessarily off-limits for kids with diabetes. Carbohydrates, including sugary candies, can cause your child’s blood sugar level to increase. While different types of carbohydrates do have different effects on his blood sugar levels, the amount of carbohydrate matters the most. If your child eats candy with a meal and balances them with other foods, he can consume a few sweet treats.
Consider the number of carbohydrates in candy when determining the best sweets to offer your child. Some candies supply large amounts of carbohydrates, which may use up his carbohydrate allowance on empty calories rather than nutritious sources of carbohydrates, such as fruits and grains. When offering candy, substitute other items in his meal with a type of candy that contains an equal amount of carbohydrates. For instance, replace his usual high-carbohydrate potato with a serving of broccoli and a small piece of chocolate that contains an equal amount of carbohydrates.
While sugar-free candies can help satisfy your child’s craving for sweets, not all sugar substitutes are equal. Sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol, xylitol, isomalt and mannitol, contain fewer carbohydrates than sugar or starch. Subtract about one-half the grams of sugar alcohol from the total amount of carbohydrate in candy, but count the remaining grams of carbohydrate as part of your child’s carbohydrate allowance.
Halloween can be a difficult time for children who have to manage their carbohydrate intake. Some brands of Halloween candy have fewer carbohydrates than others have. One package of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups contains 29 g carbs, while a 40 g package of Brach’s Candy Corn supplies 36 g carbs. The best candies for children with diabetes are those that supply fewer carbohydrates, such as Snickers Fun Size bars, which have 12 g carbs, small boxes of Junior Mints, which have 11 g carbs, and Twizzlers, which have only 8 g carbs per candy.
While an occasional sweet may not harm your child’s health, too many at once may make his blood sugar level increase rapidly. Read food labels carefully to make sure you make even trades when switching sweets for other carbohydrates. Consider the number of carbohydrates in individual serving sizes and limit his intake accordingly. Teaching your child the value of good nutrition can help him make wise food choices as he grows.