Whoever says Halloween is just for children has not lived in NYC. Halloween is taken very seriously here, from people dressing up in costumes to go to work to wearing your costume out that night to bars. We even have an annual parade in the West Village dedicated to the spirit of this fabulous holiday! And even though we are technically too old to trick or treat, we are certainly not deprived of our candy fixes.
Is there any nutritional value to candy? Short answer: no. In such, there are many dietitians who will tell you to eat mini pretzel packages or pumpkin seeds on Halloween instead. Right, just like the neighborhood dentist who gave out toothbrushes on Halloween. Really cool.
The conclusion that Sam and I have come to is that clients are not going to avoid candy and neither are we. Here at the Secret Ingredient, we believe that nutrition is all about balance. There are no bad foods, but there certainly are always better choices. Plus, research has shown that indulging every once and a while prevents binge eating.
So on Halloween, just like any other holiday, we give you the go ahead to eat your favorite candy. But, don’t be mistaken; we are not giving you license to eat a King Size Snickers Bar…
1) Stick to the mini or fun size candy bar options. 30 years ago, there was no King, fun, or mini size. Fun size was the only size. Ironically, given the abundance of candy around us, food vendors on Halloween sell portion- controlled packaging. Each Fun Size package contains around 60-100 calories, which is a perfect sweet treat. And even smaller treats are the minis, which contain around 30-50 calories each.
2) Get rid of extra candy. If you get trick or treaters or your kids trick or treat, portion out candy and put the rest away where you can’t see it. But if you don’t have good portion control, save a few pieces of candy and give the rest away at work/school. Halloween is one day – not a month.
3) Avoid sugar free or low carbohydrate options. Don’t be fooled by these choices. These options are lower in sugar but similar in calories and higher in fat. Eat a small amount of the real thing in fun size or mini and truly satisfy your sweet treat craving.
4) Don’t be fooled by organics. We promote organic this and that as much as any dietitians do however candy is another story. Organic sugar is still sugar and as someone very wise once told me “a calorie is a calorie.” However they do avoid high fructose corn syrup, which is one positive for the organic candies. Research has shown that 100g of high fructose corn syrup per day, due to how our bodies breakdown fructose, is linked with the development of type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, high blood cholesterol and triglycerides, and increased abdominal fat.
5) Choose wisely. We all have our favorites. However, you should be informed of what you are eating and some candies are relatively healthier than others. Although we can’t review them all here are a few that we rounded up and compared:
Break me off a piece of that….Kit Kats have never been my personal favorite but many people swear by them. And compared to a lot of other candies they are lower in calories and sugar. And they do not contain trans fats! Fun size: 70 calories, 3.5 g fat, 2.3 g saturated fat, 10 mg sodium, 7 g sugar.
Taste the rainbow…Sorry to all you Skittle lovers out there, but these are not the best choice. Although they are advertised that they are made from juice, Skittles are higher than most in high fructose corn syrup and trans fat. But if they are your absolute favorite, stick to one fun pack and you should avoid a harmful dose of trans fats. Fun pack: 60 calories, 0.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 11 g sugar, and 0 mg sodium
Hungry? Why wait….Always my family’s personal favorite, Snickers also unfortunately contain large amounts of trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. However, they also contain peanuts, which means you could argue that there is some nutritional value to this candy bar. But this also means that they will quickly add up to be higher in calories. Fun size: 80 calories, 4 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 9 g sugar, 40 mg sodium
Makes mouths happy…The packaging for Twizzlers on Halloween is unfortunate because the portion they give you makes it higher in calories and sugar than other fun size varieties. In general, however, Twizzlers are a good choice as they are very low in calories and fat comparatively speaking. Fun size: 140 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 18 g sugar, 85 mg sodium.
Get the sensation…Peppermint Patties are a great choice. Low in calories, sodium, and fat, these treats are always packaged in portion controlled sizes. Plus they are trans fat free and always really satisfying. 1 peppermint patty: 50 calories, 1 g fat, .5 g saturated fat, 5 mg sodium, 9 g sugar.
Two for me none for you….One of my childhood favorites, Twix, has the big T, trans fat. Although it is lower in sugar than others. Fun size: 80 calories, 4 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 8 g sugar, 30 mg sodium.
Candy corn is so famous it should get a slogan. We haven’t been able to find fun sized packaging on candy corn. Watch out when you see them out on Halloween because they are addictive and extremely high in high fructose corn syrup and calories. The serving size given is 20 pieces or ½ a cup (or 1 palm full if you are out): 150 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 75 mg sodium, 33 g sugar.
Raisinets do not have a slogan…but are definitely a good choice. Each piece actually contains a full raisin, or other varieties that now contain cherries and craisins. Lower in calories and sodium than others it contains nutritional value comparative to other choices. Fun size: 65 calories, 2.5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 7 g sugar, 5 mg sodium.
Melts in your mouth, not in your hand….Always a debate, peanut, original, almond, peanut butter, and now pretzel varieties of M&Ms, which one is your favorite? For this round up we picked peanut as they seem to be the most popular choice. Impressively, peanut M&Ms are a decent choice. Containing a whole peanut in each candy, they contain healthy fats and protein. No trans fats. Fun size: 90 calories, 5 g fat, 2 g saturated fats, 9 g sugar, 10 mg sodium, 3 g protein.
**Note- Peanut butter M&Ms are the only variety to contain trans fats.
There’s no wrong way to eat a Reeses…A favorite to all, Reese’s peanut butter cups are unfortunately one of the highest in calories and fat for just one serving (1 peanut butter cup). And interestingly, holiday shaped Reese’s such as pumpkins for Halloween contain trans fat but original shaping does not (trans fats give processed foods more malleable shapes). So if you can stick to the original shaped Reeses and eat just one it’s not so bad. 1 regular peanut butter cup: 105 calories, 6.5 g fat, 2.25 g saturated fats, 75 mg sodium, 10 g sugar.
**Plus mini Reeses peanut butter cups, although argued by many to not taste as good, are a good choice with better portion control. 1 mini Reeses: 44 calories, 2.5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 26 mg sodium, 4.6 g sugar.
**FYI: Reese’s pieces contain trans fats.
How many licks does it take….Tootsie Roll Lollipops as well as just plain tootsie rolls contain a lot of trans fats. However, these lollipops are very satisfying, sodium free, and very low in calories comparatively. And if you stick to 1 lollipop it is less than 1g trans fat per serving. 1 lollipop: 60 calories, 0 fat, trace trans fats, 0 saturated fats, 10 g sugar, 0 mg sodium.
A lighter way to enjoy chocolate…Although advertised as the healthier candy bar, 3 muskeeters is still a chocolate bar. However, it is lower in calories per bar and fat per bar than most of its competitors. But it still has a lot of trans fats. Fun size: 60 calories, 2 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 10 g sugar, 25 mg sodium.
And the healthiest options are….Peppermint Patty, Raisinets, and Peanut M&Ms!!
Happy Halloween everyone and enjoy your fun size candy bars guilt-free this year!!