Blog post

5 tips to make Halloween with kidney disease a little less scary

Dr. Blake (AKA "The Cooking Doc") shares five ways to enjoy Halloween while living with kidney disease and still prioritizing your child's (and your) health.
two orange buckets with a black bucket in mummy wraps

For many children, Halloween is one of the most exciting days of the year. Dressed in their favorite costumes, they parade around the neighborhood with friends and family, seeking sweets and treats that may be limited on all other days of the year.

Of course, Halloween also brings a host of stressors, especially for children who have kidney disease and the dietary limitations that come along with it. Their parents also feel that pressure, perhaps even more so. If you are the parent of a child with kidney disease, you may feel torn on Halloween because you want your child to enjoy the day just as someone without kidney disease would, but you also want to look out for their safety and health.

Though I created this post with the parents of children with kidney disease in mind, I know many adults see Halloween as a special day as well. All of you adult Halloween lovers with kidney disease can also benefit from these five ideas. No matter your age, though, be sure to talk to your doctor or dietitian to help understand what your kidney-friendly food and fluid plan is, and what is most important for each individual person to monitor.

Here are five ways to enjoy Halloween while still prioritizing your child's (and your) health.

  1. Don't put restrictions on what type of candy or sweet treat your child can have, just limit the amount.
    This advice really goes for any child because restricting certain things often ensures that your child will seek those things out when you are not looking. Portion control can help solve the problem. If your child wants a chocolate with caramel or coconut — ingredients that can contain a lot of potassium and phosphorus and that your child needs to limit — give them a mini-chocolate bar or a few squares of a larger bar. For example, a serving of mini peanut butter cups contains 90 mg of potassium while a serving of the regular-sized peanut butter cups contains 160 mg of potassium. (Also, check out this guide about how to read nutrition labels to help make your decisions about candy intake.) This will ensure they can enjoy the food without feeling like they have been excluded.
  2. Spread out the candy intake over weeks.
    Here's the rule: No limitations on which candy your child can eat; they just need to keep the portions small. Allow your child to have a special treat on Halloween night and every day for the month of November (or however long their haul lasts) so that they don't indulge and consume the full bag in a short period of time. This extends the holiday through the month and may keep your children satisfied because they get to eat something special for 30 days, rather than just one day.
  3. Buy some special candy for your child.
    Even though there are some candies that need to be limited, others don't have to be monitored as closely. Stock up on sugar-free and age-appropriate full sugar hard candies and mints. Allow your children to have a few extra pieces of these hard candies because they are low in potassium and phosphorus. Here's a note of warning though: don't let these stick around your house year-round. Make these candies a one-time deal for Halloween. It's easy for kids (or anyone) to develop a candy habit.
  4. Focus on something other than food.
    Remember that artistic talent you once demonstrated when you dressed up as a child? Well, revisit that creativity again on Halloween this year for your kid. If they can't eat as much candy as everyone else, create a costume with them that lights up the neighborhood instead. Not a costume artist? Decorate your house or buy some non-candy gifts to give away such as stretchy toys or squeezable squishy balls.
  5. Remember that Halloween is only one night and give everyone, including yourself, a little grace and seek out others who can relate to your difficulties.
    You are not alone in having to manage dietary requirements on Halloween. Many other parents of children with food allergies or chronic medical conditions are going through similar difficulties. If you ask around, you can probably find others in your neighborhood in the same position and consider working together to make Halloween safe and enjoyable for everyone.

Happy Halloween! Be safe and have fun!