University of Illinois Extension

Holidays and Special Occasions

Birthdays, holidays, and other celebrations should be happy times, but they can often cause extra stress for the child with diabetes. The child will want to eat the same food as everybody else, and it can be embarrassing to be left out.

Birthday Parties

  • If there is a party at school, the parent can send along some snack options that everyone can eat (e.g. a fresh fruit or vegetable tray, pretzels, air-popped popcorn).
  • At friends’ birthday parties, the host parents should be notified of the child’s diabetes. They should be given a list of emergency phone numbers in case of emergency. Parents can volunteer to bring a healthy option to the party and help out. This may put the host parents at ease, as someone will be there to watch over the child with diabetes.


  • Recipes can be modified to be healthier – use nonfat milk instead of whole, replace oil with applesauce, or use sugar substitutes in baked goods.
  • Take the focus off candy and other holiday-themed treats. Goodie bags can be filled with yo-yos, temporary tattoos, and other small toys. New traditions can be made by paying more attention to holiday activities rather than food. For example, apple-picking on Halloween, decorating the Christmas tree, playing volleyball or Frisbee on the 4th of July, and so on.

For a printable handout, click here: Modifying Recipes for Diabetes

Going Out to Eat

  • Many restaurants post their menus online. The child can be given an opportunity to choose what he wants to eat before leaving the house. This can help avoid conflicts at the table and make the meal more enjoyable for everyone.
  • Portions can often be too large for one child. Half of the entrée can be boxed up at the beginning of the meal and taken home for later.

Remember that when a child doesn’t follow his usual meal plan, blood glucose levels may fluctuate and should be checked more often. With a little planning, though, children with diabetes can certainly join in the fun.

For a printable handout, click here: Holidays and Special Occasions