Nutritionist’s Guide to Indulging This Halloween

kim tierney Blog

Between the spooky decorations and costumes, halloween is frightening enough. But probably even more scary is what your kids are getting in their candy buckets. Halloween is the time where its "acceptable" to keep candy lying around the house, but unfortunately, that does not make it any more healthy for us. The scary truth is, a lot of candy out there contains harmful ingredients that, even though "FDA approved" can be wreaking absolute havoc on our gut and our bodies. But don't worry..there are better options for indulging in your sweet tooth!

To start off, the following ingredients are what you do NOT want to consume. Here are some of the spookiest candy additives to beware of:

Food dyes

Artificial food dyes are made from petroleum...doesn’t sound so appetizing when you put it that way. Either way, they give the bright, fun colors to our foods, particularly candy! Since food dyes are relatively new, the safety of these dyes is highly controversial as research is still being conducted.

Studies so far suggest there is some association between artificial food dyes and hyperactivity or even more obvious allergic reactions in children. Some children seem to be more sensitive to dyes than others. Some artificial food dyes (ec: Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6) may cause allergic reactions for some. Don’t be fooled by the word “natural” - it essentially means derived from natural sources, but technically everything originates from something natural. “Natural” is just a buzzword that sounds better than “artificial”, but it does not mean the ingredients are not processed or synthetic. They are just “candy coating” the truth!

Butane

Yes, you read that right. Some candy’s have an ingredient in common with lighter fluid: TBHQ, which is a synthetic preservative, also used as a stabilizing ingredient in varnishes and lacquers. The FDA has approved the controversial ingredient because it apparently isn’t fatal in minute doses, but knowing where it comes from..no thanks. Look for TBHQ in the ingredients list!

GMO's...OMG!

A common sweetener to candy is corn syrup. Corn is one of the most genetically modified ingredients in the country, and it lurks as a food additive in more ways than one: corn syrup, corn starch, etc. A GMO is any organism, in this case corn, whose DNA has been altered by genetic engineering...aka, FRANKENFOOD..no thanks! To be sure you are avoiding GMOs, look for the "Non-GMO" or Organic label.

Sugar, sugar...and high fructose corn syrup

If it wasn’t already obvious, something all candy’s have in common: sugar, and on halloween, there is lots of it. Keep in mind that 4g of sugar is a whole teaspoon. Now think of how much candy you or your kids are eating in halloween candy...how many teaspoons is that?

Added sugars are the culprit when it comes to blood sugar and insulin spikes, weight gain, diabetes, and even memory loss! A little bit in moderation won’t hurt, so try and savor just a little bit at a time this halloween instead of mindlessly grabbing candy every time you pass by the bowl. Even more dangerous than table sugar is high fructose corn syrup or corn syrup solids, which are linked to obesity and visceral fat even more than cane sugar. 

So what are some better options to give out this Halloween?

1. Bite size chocolates

Choosing a chocolate bar type candy is the best way to avoid those artificial colorings. Chocolate candy almost always has a shorter, less intimidating ingredient list. Simple ingredient list is better, and portion is key! Hershey’s almond or dark chocolate kisses provide the little perks of antioxidants from dark chocolate and nuts. That does not mean these are “healthy” per se, but they are “less bad” and have better quality ingredients than colored, overly sugary, corn syrupy candies. And remember..just because they are mini does not justify having more! Savoring one piece at a time is more worth it anyways.

2. Fruit leather

Fruit leather is like the natural version of fruit roll-ups! Simple made from pressed fruit, it’s truly nature’s candy! Look for one with no artificial colors or added sugars.

3. Nut or granola bars

Believe it or not, a lot of houses give out granola bars, but sometimes they can be just as sugary and unhealthy as a candy bar! A better option is KIND brand nut bars or granola bars. Averaging around 6g of sugar in most varieties, this will be a treat you can feel really good about giving to your trick or treaters! They even sell smaller “fun sized” versions of the nut based bars.

4. Swap treats for toys

You don’t have to give out candy. Kids are just as intrigued by flashy or novelty toys, and there is research to confirm that! Pick up halloween themed stickers, bubbles, glow in the dark spiders, glow sticks, FIDGET SPINNERS MAYBE???