The Halloween Candy Aisle: What to Choose and What to Skip
It’s Halloween and the candy aisle is the popular spot. According to The Nielsen Company, Americans spent about $1.9 billion on candy in 2013 – that's the equivalent of 600 million pounds of candy! We don't recommend taking the fun out of Halloween by banning beloved sweets, but some choices are better than others.
When it comes to candies like taffy, caramel, and gummies they do just that — stick! The Academy for General Dentistry warns against these super-sticky favorites that can easily get lodged in tiny spaces between teeth. It's always important to brush your teeth after eating tons of sugar, but those super gooey choices are even tough to get off with a toothbrush.
Instead: If you're craving a sugary treat, choose Twizzlers, lollipops, Smarties or hard candies (if choking isn’t a concern).
It's a pretty scary experience when a kid of any age has candy lodged in their windpipe. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under three are especially at high risk for choking on gel-like candies, marshmallows and gum.
Instead: Choose bite-sized candy that is easily chewable. Choose mini marshmallows or cut large marshmallows into bite-size pieces.
Chocolate is heavy on calories, so portions matter. During Halloween jumbo-sized chocolate bars are on sale and you may be tempted to buy them. A four-ounce king-sized Snickers contains 537 calories, 27 grams fat and 10 grams saturated fat (50% of the recommended daily amount!). Even regular-sized chocolate bars are brimming with calories and fat. A 2.4 ounce Hershey's Symphony Milk Chocolate Bar contains 361 calories, 21 grams fat and 12 grams saturated fat..
Instead: Choose miniature sized chocolates. Even one or two minis don't equal the amount of calories in a regular chocolate bar. You can also opt for chocolate covered raisins or peanuts — at least you can enjoy your chocolate with more nutritious foods!
Suckers are the candy that keeps on giving past the initial unwrapping. Most of the time you'll end up with half licked pops around the house. As enticing as they may be, avoid super-sized lollipops – you know, the ones the size of your child's head!
Instead: Choose smaller-sized lollipops such as Dum Dums with 26 calories and 5 grams sugar.
There's no doubt Starbursts and Twizzlers are fun and convenient to chew on. But if you think fruity treats are healthier because they have the word "fruit" in their title, you’re mistaken. Fruity treats don’t count as a fruit — they're pure sugar.
Instead: Whichever fruity treat you choose, stick with one portion to keep sugar under control. Two regular-sized Twizzlers has 80 calories and 9.5 grams sugar while 3 Starbursts Fruit Chews have 60 calories and 9 grams sugar.
You may opt for sugar-free candies to cut the sugar but candies made with artificial sweeteners aren't appropriate for children (except possibly for diabetic children and adults).
Instead: Choose one or two pieces of a "real sugar" candy than going the artificial route.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.