“It’s the Holidays, My Child Cannot Eat THAT!!!!”

Stress mom“My child cannot do anything for Christmas.  No cookies, no gingerbread houses, no egg nog….I get so depressed during the holidays.”

I would truly like to know where people get these notions that their kids, because of their diabetes, cannot eat different things for the holidays. 

I would really like this article today to be where people add a comment to this post so many can learn from your wisdom about eating, diabetes, and what to do with children’s appetites during the holidays.  Mine is just a starting, point so please share your thoughts.

If someone said to me (and this is even before insulin pumps etc) I’m so sorry that your kids cannot truly eat what they want during the holidays our answer was always the same.  “No kid can eat what they truly want during the holidays.  If they did, they would eat so much crap they would explode.” 

I have always stated that kids can eat what they want, they just cannot eat as much as they want, but if you think about it; no child can just eat as much AS THEY WANT.  So with the holidays coming, do not drive your self crazy ‘worrying’ about all of the goodies.  Pace yourself.  Have the resources where you can carb count to the best of your ability and adjust accordingly.

The late, great Richard Rubin constantly stated to give choices to your child.  One idea is to say, you can have 15 of these (something healthy and ‘free’) or one of these (correctly proportioned sweet snack).  Choices…..always try to make it with choices.  If you want this now, you can have X amount; but if you wait until X time you can have X amount where we can bolus for it; what do you want to do?

Now of course you can just say ‘no’ but if the holidays are all about saying ‘no’ at every turn, you’ll have struggles.  So look to giving choices.

Parents—PLEASE feel free to add to this post so others can learn.  Many will be having their first Christmas with T1 diabetes—-what suggestions do you have when it comes to food and holiday eating?  PLEASE SHARE.

I am a diabetes dad.

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0 thoughts on ““It’s the Holidays, My Child Cannot Eat THAT!!!!”

  • Just relax, it’s Christmas, let them enjoy it. So what if levels go a bit high, it’s only for a few days. Just make it clear with them – if they’re old enough to understand – that you’ll be relaxed for the holidays but afterwards it’ll be back to normal routine.

    On a different note my father showed me the chocolate Father Christmas items he got for my nephew.
    “Oh, I said that’s nice”
    “Yes, I hope you’ll understand that we didn’t get anything for your girls Kev because of Amy”. Amy has Type 1.
    I may have gone “ape sh!t” (as we say in the UK) on him. I can’t believe how many times I’ve told him Amy can eat anything. Just because he’s Type 2 and can’t understand the difference.

  • Great article! I think it is a growing and learning process for all. In the beginning of diagnosis I was overwhelmed by the learning process and facts and warnings and just wanting to get everything right and accurate and safe. Even if someone told me I could guesstimate, I would not have. I stocked my travel bag with items I could offer at others homes (hot choc pouches/ Mac and cheese / a stop at a nearby wawa for a frozen ice cream bar or Hershey bar for dessert. You name it, if it could pack and travel well with carb info that’s how we got through first year of holidays. Was it necessary? Probably not for many. But for me, absolutely. It got me through it. Fast forward 5 years, now I guesstimate on holidays along with still bringing some choices from home. It’s a balancing act for us. We check more during holiday events as guessing more can lead to highs ( which we just correct at 3 hr point) or lows which we try to catch early by checking more when we guess. It’s almost like a right of passage in world of T1D where you learn sometimes you can’t control or have the knowledge of every carb amount going in… So you do your best. Because a day here and a day there of bring slightly off or grossly off, isn’t the end of the world. Sometimes you just wing it keep an extra eye and watch your child enjoy the holidays while always knowing you can correct in 3 hours etc. ESP if for most other days you are accurately carb counting. The goal is to make a plan in advance. Arrive prepared. And talk about options ahead of time. My son loved stopping at nearby market on way to grandmas and picking up his fav icecream and don’t forget many whipped creams are virtually carb free!!! Happy holidays, enjoy your time by being prepared in advance. Ask hostess in advance if she knows what will be served or if she minds if you bring some of your child’s favorite special food items. Check and correct at proper intervals is now our holiday motto!

  • Actually we find with all the excitement that we can get away with a few unbolused/part-bolused treats and not get highs. Christmas morning after cereal there are always sausage rolls, mince pies, sweets and chocs while we unwrap pressies. So far so good we are usually allowing snacks to prevent lows!
    Good advice about offering choices – sometimes no is no just the same for a d-child as any other child- but our kids need to learn how to make sensible decisions while they are still under our wing.

  • Kenny Derrick says:

    Our son is 13 and has had sense he was 3. With that we have always tried to let him have as normal a life a possible with ahving Type 1. if we had donuts he at 3 and 4 he would get a shot for one donut and if he asked for a second he could choose a second donut meant a second shot so it was up to him. as he has gotten older and he is on the pump we tell him if he eats something he needs to carb for it. We have always felt that if he is always told no about eating something he will sneak it when he got the chance. it does not matter if it is a cookie , candy for Christmas or even Cotton Candy at a sports event. A Kid should get to be a Kid.

  • Amen to the “choices” concept. I recall the smell of Cinnabons at the mall causing my pre-teen daughter to whine about NOT being able to have one….I told her we’d look up the nutritional info (counter people had NO idea!) at a bookstore….when she saw it was 130 gms, she said “WHAT! I’d need THIRTEEN units of insulin for THAT!!” NO WAY!…suddenly it didn’t seem as appealing, but the decision NOT to get it was HERS- not mine.

  • It’s all about balance. Diabetics get to CELEBRATE just like everyone else. And there are tons of ways to modify recipes so that they are more balanced in and of themselves. I haven’t met a recipe I can’t make sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, whatever your “free” need is. Adding higher fiber flours can help add balance. Adding whole fruit (with skin which equals fiber) instead of refined sugar can help add balance. But in the end, it’s about the celebration and about finding balance. I think adults are so horrible at finding balance for themselves during the holidays that they can’t conceive how to help their kids. Send your kids to my house and we’ll party on!

  • Anna Kotarski says:

    I have never restricted my daughter from eating different dishes during holidays. We have always given her insulin or guessed the carbs to the best of our knowledge and she had a piece of this or that with everybody else. I find that everyday food affects her BG worse than holiday treats. We always make sure that she eats some real food, protein, salad before she has any cake or cookie or whatever the treat is to lessen the amount of sweet she would eat. I found that sweets don’t affect BGs as much as long as insulin is given. Also, tip for newly diagnosed children: chocolate is fatty so it might have delayed absorption into blood stream, I would suggest bolusing after the chocolate is eaten or when on pump, extend the bolus. Learned the hard way. Merry Christmas, diabetes can’t stand on the way to happiness. Let’s keep sanity.

  • Remember, they are a kid first. We always try to encourage healthy choices, but they too – just like all of us – want to enjoy a few treats, so we allow them. We just work out carbs, and if it means a big dose of insulin, we ask our DD if she’s sure she wants to eat it & say BG checks must be a bit more frequent to try to keep on top of any highs that might happen. If I’m cooking, I have more control over what’s on offer, so will make things that are lower carb, but still feel like a treat. Cheesecakes can be amazing and still much lower carb than lots of things. Meringue with cream & fruit is always a big favourite. Trifle is always on the menu at Christmas and I make an individual one for our DD without the sherry and I weigh & measure so I know the exact carbs in it. Substitute sugar with natural sweetener or reduce amount in recipe. We did recently have a dessert that was a very high carb percentage, so a high amount for the size of serving and the comment was that it ‘was not worth the carbs’ for the experience!!
    We will also do more night time checks to get BGs back under control to make sure we start the next day well as we find that if we start higher than we should, the whole day seems to be a struggle to stay in control and it’s harder to say ‘sure, that’s ok’ when it’s high than when BG is in range!
    There is a quote from a YouTube video that we love for those people with “Type Zero”: “the only thing my child with diabetes can’t eat is poison, and cookies…………. made with poison”!!
    Happy holidays! Relax and enjoy!

  • Heather Kitts says:

    I do agree with you Tom, but there are some of us whose child can’t be that free with they eat, not because they have T1, but because they have food allergies. Our daughter has both, and I would love to be able to just go somewhere & let her have whatever she wants & fix it later. But we can’t. I try to be sure that she has choices when we go out. I always bring “safe” deserts for her (chocolate is her favorite). She’s 5. I don’t want to say no, but she has to be safe. And sadly food allergies are as misunderstood as type 1, because many people just don’t take them seriously. But, I do my best for my daughter. Today I made peanut free Buckeyes & she decorated her very first gingerbread house yesterday ( 1st time I’ve found one safe for her) . It’s a challenge, but she’s worth it.

    • Of course Heather, if it is unfortunate that others deal with other restrictions, including but not exclusive to Celiac, and other disease states—-that takes the artice to a different direction. And your points are well taken and thank you for adding them.

      • Thank you! Our conversations, tend to to the following way:
        “Oh, she can’t have that ( cookie, cake, etc) because of the ‘diabetes'”
        And of course, I say over & over. “No, it’s not because she has diabetes, it’s because she has food allergies.” And if I’m in a mood, I’ll eat it, because I’m also type 1 & like to prove a. Point 🙂

  • Omg I am so happy I read this today! My 7 yr old was diagnosed last Tuesday and this has been one of my worries. Wasnt sure how I would keep track of all the homemade food and goodies. Thank you so much for this post!

    • Sure Lorra—–so sorry that you are now ‘in our community’. Take a deep breathe and move one day at a time. With two kids and over 21 years in this; I have learned that the light at the end of the tunnel is not necessairly a train coming the other way. One step–one step—-one day-one day. Best of everything and if you need anything feel free to reach out.
      Regards.

  • Things like this drive me batty. My 8 year old son is fantastic when it comes to treats related to ANY holiday. He is completely okay with having a little something here and there and saving some things for low BG treatments. He knows we don’t deny him things, completely. Considering the fact that he’s only 8, he’s pretty responsible about eating things. He doesn’t eat ANYTHING without, first, talking with Mom or Dad. And we never go the route of “fixing it later” other than the occasional snack here and there that he doesn’t test before eating; he just boluses for the carbs in the snack. For the most part, it’s something that’s not worth worrying about. Most of the time, he’s too busy playing to be worrying about food; unless it’s meal time. And at meal time, we test and bolus just like every day.

    The biggest thing to remember here is: if the parents are freaked out, the kid is going to be freaked out. He WILL follow your lead. If you relax about things, he’ll relax. It’s just the way it is. It’s not even about what you SAY. It’s how you act and the vibes you give off. They know. They sense it all – you can’t hide it. 😉 We’ve emulated this from day 1 when he was dx and he’s taken everything in stride. Not that he doesn’t have his moments when he fights everything and wishes he didn’t have diabetes. But, overall, he responds the way we respond. Let’s not create more stress – especially for the kids – during an already stressful time of year. Let the kids be kids.

    I like the idea of choices, as well. That’s a good one and a great way to point out how little you get of the not-so-good-for-you snack in comparison to the healthy one. 🙂

  • My #1 is now 6 he was diagnosed at age 2. Our first Christmas came two weeks after he was diagnosed. I drug a full backpack of food already carbed out, my scales that has carbs logged into it for all kinds of food. Now I always have the Holliday dinners at our home. I fix a nice healthy meal for all to enjoy. I do fix dessert that I have already carbed. For snacking I have several types of berries, veggies and nuts out. My #1 loves berries with his meals or snack. One food we can’t do is pancakes… They send his BG super high. I have tried gluten free, no syrup…

  • My 5 year old son is Type 1 since 20 months old.. I was taught it is important that they feel like a normal kid first.. and really, I do not feed him any differently than I do if he were not diabetic.. eat healthy, everything in moderation… as he grows, we teach him as much as we can about healthy choices that are age appropriate. In the case of holiday parties, it can be crazy and the healthy eater in me is appalled at how much junk is available sometimes… I have just sent an email to the teacher today asking if we can please have healthy snacks at the Christmas party instead of so much junk! He is on an insulin pump, so when he does want a treat, I bolus for what he ate, and then I give an increased temporary basal for an hour or perhaps 2-hours that is about 2-3 times higher than his usual basal… This seems to get us through the spikes… I also think it is good to consider a slightly higher basal that night if the food were consumed in the evening – every kid is different, but I have found him higher on those nights than a regular day.. I also take a deep breath and keep telling myself its just once a year and he does not eat like this every day.. but that part is still difficult at times!

    • That breath will even last—-21+ years later. Still we cringe sometimes when we see their plates….but it surely has become so much better as they became older. Thanks for writing.

  • As a mum of a newly diagnosed T1 I was petrified about the holidays, special occasions etcetera. But now we know what we are doing (mostly, still beginning with carb counting education) it’s not actually as scary as I first thought.
    My son worries more about the highs but I just reassure him that it’s fine and that’s the whole point of being sensible and using the insulin properly. He has a fantastic meter to help him calculate how much insulin he has based on his blood sugar reading and it’ll also assist him with the carbs once we’ve learned to do so. Thanks for this blog, I get so irritated by peoples faces when he tucks into chocolate or ice cream, but I just try to educate them, failing that I just ignore them 🙂

  • This article is amazing!! If you don’t mind, I’d like to translate it and share it in the support group where I usually help (with a link to your page, obviously).. Most parents of new diabetics, and even new diabetics themselves, are really scared and I think your words (and the words of the people commenting) will help I lot..

    I’m diabetic.. I’ve been for 19 years now.. At Christmas and New Year, what I do is, take a single plate, put there the goodies I want to eat, and treat myself with that.. Usually I never get to finish it because it’s more than enough, and not being used to eating sweet things makes it harder to it sweet things now.. So, it’s actually easier that it seems..

    Thank you for your words, diabetes dad.. I wish you a Merry Christmas, and a very Happy New Year for you and your family.. Hugs from Argentina

  • Rhonda Reynolds says:

    My son is 13 type 1 and my mother makes him holiday chocolate chip, oat meal cookies with Spenda instead of sugar. He loves them. I also put in his stocking Reeses Butter Cups because they are not so high in carbs. He still eats sweets but in moderation.

  • My son has been diagnosed with t1d for 4 years, he eats what others eat. However, the first several years were definitely large learning curves, figuring out how high to increase basals for car rides so that when we showed up he wasn’t high already, then making choices about where we really wanted to allow our children (t1d and non) to have their sugar from – juice boxes that are 24 carbs have always been vetoed, but a gingerbread cookie they decorate is okay. I think because we were always so particular about sugar heavy food prior to Isaac’s dx that it has helped us not feel like we’re missing out. However, this year is our first year celebrating with celiac disease on board…this has been more difficult for us as we just didn’t think about all the traditional gatherings that are filled with gluten-full food. From gingerbread houses to cookies and even many types of candy canes we have had more difficulty with the holidays and celiac disease then we ever have with type 1 diabetes.

  • When Amy asks if she can eat something (like a big chocolate) I say of course you can, BUT you need a needle. 8 times out of 10 she’ll stomp her feet and walk away

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