Published on 03/13/08

With planning, diabetics can enjoy Easter goodies

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

Jelly beans, marshmallow peeps, Cadbury eggs and chocolate bunnies. The signs that Easter is on its way are all around. Just because the holiday has sweet treats doesn’t mean it spells disaster for people with diabetes.

According to Connie Crawley, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension nutrition and health specialist, an Easter basket doesn’t have to be filled with sweets to be a treat.

“There are really quite a few things they can do,” Crawley said. “In an Easter basket, you don’t have to put candy.” Or, parents can “focus on the one or two sweets that your child really enjoys. Don’t just give him a bunch of junk.”

Children with diabetes often regulate their blood sugar by counting carbohydrates and following them with the correct amount of insulin. This is called an insulin-to-carb ratio.

If the child has a favorite candy, the amount of insulin needed can easily be calculated in advance. Problems arise when too many sweets are thrown into the mix.

Over indulging can create a situation where diabetic children or adults can “out eat” their medications ability to compensate. “You want to eat sweets in moderation whether you have diabetes or not,” Crawley said.

She suggests children eat candy and sweets after a meal. Treating sweets as a dessert lessens the chance of overeating.

Another way to teach children moderation, she said, is to allow the child to select candy from the basket, but not allow them to have access to the whole basket.

“If you cover with insulin and don’t over eat, (eating Easter candy) should not a big deal,” Crawley said.

As an only child, Crawley knows from experience that each child only needs one basket of candy. “When I was a kid, I got five baskets,” she said. “It was decorative stuff, and it didn’t taste very good.”

An alternative to the traditional sweets-filled Easter basket would be to include more non-food items. This applies to all children, not just those with diabetes, Crawley said.

First, consider the child’s age. Then, buy age-appropriate items that he or she would enjoy. Crawley suggests gift cards, athletic equipment like goggles or jump ropes, movie passes, stuffed animals and small toys.

“You just have to think creatively,” she said. “If a child has a hobby, you can easily give something to support their hobby. Also, support them to be more physically active.”

When it comes to the Easter meal, the traditional ham entree shouldn’t cause health concerns as long as the adults or children present don’t have hypertension, Crawley said. Side items are limitless, but Crawley recommends choosing lower-fat, lower-sugar recipes.

The American Diabetes Association publishes diabetic cookbooks and provides recipes online at, Crawley said.

Knowing the blood glucose values for food items and what a food does to blood sugar levels will also diabetics plan their holiday menus. “Know how particular foods affect you and how to adjust your diabetes treatment accordingly,” she said.

To combat the calories, and the carbohydrate overload, plan to be active after the holiday meal if possible. “Take a walk, play outside with the kids, ride a bike,” she said. “Do anything after the meal that will at least burn off extra calories.”

(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Stephanie Schupska is the communications coordinator with the University of Georgia Honors College.