The Dieter's Ultimate Guide To Halloween Candy
Sugar is one the worst foods out there for our weight and for our health, so our primary Halloween recommendation is to keep safely away from the candy altogether and enjoy one of our many healthy recipes instead.
However, if you're not currently on the 123Diet and can't get out of trick-or-treating with the kids, you may still want to go into the Halloween minefield a little more mindfully. Fortunately, we've got you covered!
First of all, if you plan on indulging later in the day, make sure you've cut as much sugar as you can out of your diet earlier on (and remember that much of the sugar we eat is sneakily smuggled into healthy-looking foods!).
Experts recommend that women consume no more than six teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day, and that men consume no more than nine (37.5 grams). It's a limit you could easily exceed if you eat just two or three pieces of candy, so don't even think about that peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch!
If you're feeling particularly virtuous, you could also try to fit a workout in beforehand so that some of the sugar you eat goes to muscle repair and recovery instead of getting turned right into fat.
Then, make sure you've had a balanced dinner of veggies and protein before even thinking about dessert. If you go straight for the sweet stuff when you're starving, you're bound to overindulge, or to need a second helping as soon as the "sugar high" from your first serving starts to wane. Having something substantial in your stomach to start with will help keep your blood sugar levels more stable and your appetite in check.
There's really no Halloween candy that's "good" for you, but deciding which varieties are "bad" and "less bad," depends on what your priorities are. Nut-based candies like Reese's and Snickers tend to be more filling than your average piece of candy, and a few grams of protein gives them just a pinch of actual nutritional value.
However, there are plenty of reasons to be dubious of nuts, including their high fat content, a problem which the other ingredients in candy bars only compound. Even a fun-sized Peanut Butter Snickers Square contains 130 calories and 7 grams of fat!
Meanwhile, some sour and gummy candies have no fat in them at all, but that's because their calorie content comes entirely from sugar! These junk foods are the emptiest that it gets, and they also tend to be full of questionable ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and artificial coloring.Candy corn alone contains Yellow 6, Yellow 5, and Red 3, dyes which may have carcinogenic and genotoxic properties and have been linked to hyperactivity in children. If you aren't already put off enough, let me also warn you that candy corn's coating is made from the encrustations that larvae of the lac bug leave on twigs. Ick!
However, if you're looking at calories alone, it's possible that you could find a pure sugar offering that would do less damage than a richer chocolate treat. For instance, a 25 calorie roll of Smarties may be no health food, but its strong flavor and the relatively high number of smarties per roll means that you might be satisfied enough afterwards to stop at just one.
Another idea if you have trouble with portion control is to suck on a piece of hard candy like a Blow Pop or a Jolly Rancher, which has the benefit of slowing you down and letting you enjoy one piece of candy in the same amount of time you could have eaten quite a few.
Speaking of serving size, don't think that because a candy bar is "fun-sized" it isn't capable of doing some serious damage. As few as three of these little devils can have calorie, sugar, and fat content comparable to that found in a full-sized candy bar, and you'd be surprised how quickly you can eat a lot more than three!
It's also important to keep in mind the difference between a "fun-size" bar and a "miniature" one. One Milky Way "mini," for instance, has only 40 calories while a "fun-size" Milky Way has twice as much (80). For Three Musketeers, the difference is even bigger, as a "mini" has 25 calories while a "fun-size" has 64.
When it comes to sugar, less is more, so it also might behoove you to know that a single Hershey's kiss has only 22 calories. Another good choice is a Hershey's "special dark" miniature, which should only have about 40 calories.
It also probably has a higher concentration of cocoa's healthy flavonoids and antioxidants than anything else you'll find in your kids' Halloween stash, though an even darker bar would be a better choice health-wise.
If you're looking for a chocolate-flavored snack with a lower fat content than chocolate itself, a 140 calories and six piece serving of Tootsie Rolls might be your jam. However, you should indulge knowing that they and other sticky candies, like caramel and taffy, tend to get stuck in your teeth, thus giving you a greater risk of cavities.Also, PSA to the vegans out there: while anything made with milk is an obvious offender, even seemingly safe candy can contain hidden animal ingredients like beeswax and gelatin (which is made from boiling the skin, bones, and cartilage from animals, yikes!). However, it's not all bad news. PETA has rounded up a list of some popular "accidentally vegan" candies, which includes Smarties, Sour Patch Kids, Airheads, Dots, Charm's Blow Pops, Dum-dums, Atomic Fireballs, and Now and Laters.
If you can spare the change for a slightly more upscale indulgence, you should skip the Halloween stash altogether and visit your local specialty store for an organic brand, which will still have the fat, sugar, and calories of typical candy but will lack the artificial and overly processed ingredients that make matters even worse. Some reputable clean candy options are Justin's Peanut Butter Cups, Unreal, Cocomels, and Smartsweets.
If you haven't been scared off your Halloween confectioneries entirely yet, we hope you'll at least make your candy choices this year a little more thoughtfully. We'll be here with plenty of healthy eating options when you're done!