Halloween party decorations royalty free image 859719464 1539626824.jpg?crop=1.00xw:0.752xh;0,0

The Halloween Candy You Should Avoid—And What You Should Eat Instead

by Hailey Middlebrook


Let’s face it: October is a tough month to stick to a healthy eating plan. Long before Halloween arrives, buckets brimming with chocolate and candy are everywhere—in the grocery store aisles, on your kitchen counter, at the office—and the temptation is hard to pass up.

The trouble is, Halloween treats don’t treat you very well. Even if you’re torching calories by training for an upcoming race, consuming too much of the sweet and fatty stuff can still raise your blood sugar and triglycerides (blood fat levels) and damage your dental health. And as we reported earlier this year, a diet high in refined sugar also increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and sleep disorders.

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That said, we’re not here to hand out kale chips for Halloween (although we do have an addictive recipe for those). So we turned to Matthew Kadey, M.S., R.D., for advice on how to make healthier choices when indulging in store-bought candy this season. Here, he walks us through his tips.

Don’t Just Count Calories

When selecting Halloween candy, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that treats with less calories are always the healthier option. But that’s the wrong way to think about it, Kadey explains, because some candies are lower in calories simply because they’re made of pure sugar and lack fat.

“By eating them, you’re just setting yourself up for a bad sugar crash,” he said. Without enough fat and protein to help stabilize your blood sugar, pure-sugar candies (such as Skittles and candy corn) spike your blood sugar levels rapidly before causing an inevitable crash.

“Instead of just looking at the calorie count, you should be looking at where those calories are coming from,” Kadey said. If there aren’t many real whole foods in the ingredients—such as peanuts or cocoa—that’s a good sign it won’t be very nutritionally beneficial.

For example, Skittles, which have 60 calories and 14 grams of sugar in a fun-size pouch, are comprised of sugar, corn syrup, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, various artificial flavors, dyes, and—believe it or not—wax. Mini Airheads, which also clock in at 60 calories but with 9 grams of sugar, share similar key ingredients, including sugar, corn syrup, artificial flavors, and dyes, and also contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil—a source of bad-for-you trans fats (even though the candy wrapper reads “trans-fat free,” that technically means it contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving).

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And bad news for candy corn fans: The waxy, tri-colored kernels contain more than 12 ingredients, including sugar, corn syrup, confectioner’s glaze (a food grade shellac that comes from the secretion of an insect called a lac bug), and food dyes. In short, nothing you really want to be putting in your body.

Instead of noshing on these highly-processed treats, if you’re going to eat candy, Kadey suggests opting for chocolate candies or chocolate candy bars.

Choose the Right Chocolate

While they’re higher in calories than the pure-sugar alternatives, chocolate candy bars tend to be more nutritionally balanced with fat, protein, and some antioxidants. Even better, studies have linked the high cacao (or cocoa) levels in dark chocolate to health benefits such as better endurance and a decreased risk of heart attack. But beware: Kadey warns that sometimes chocolate is sneakily labeled as dark chocolate even when it isn’t.

“If the first ingredient listed on a chocolate bar is sugar, it’s not dark chocolate,” he said. For example, Hershey’s Special Dark contains 45 percent cacao, and its first (primary) ingredient is sugar, while chocolate comes in second.

A good rule of thumb is to seek out dark chocolate that’s at least 70 percent cacao, with sugar making up the remaining 30 percent of the bar. The higher the percentage of cacao in a bar, the less sugar it has, thus the better it is for you.

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Alter Eco – Dark Blackout Organic Chocolate – 2.82 oz

Alter Eco amazon.com $5.77

Kadey recommends a bar like Alter Eco’s Dark Blackout Organic Chocolate, which is 85 percent cacao and contains cocoa beans, cocoa butter, raw cane sugar, and vanilla beans. One serving size (40 grams or half the bar) has 230 calories, most of which come from fat: 22 grams, 13 of which are saturated fat. But before you freak out about those numbers, remember that the fats in dark chocolate come from cocoa butter and are mostly healthy, made up of oleic acid (a monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil), stearic acid (a saturated fat that has a neutral effect on cholesterol), and palmitic acid (a saturated fat that can affect cholesterol; however, it only accounts for a third of the fats).

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On the bright side, the bar has 3 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and only 6 grams of sugar—less than half the amount that a fun-size Skittles contains. It also contains 40 percent of your daily value of iron, a key nutrient for cyclists..

In most bags of Halloween chocolate, however, you won’t find Alter Eco products. So how do classic milk chocolate candy bars like Reese’s, Snickers, 3 Musketeers, and Almond Joys stack up?

A five-piece serving of Reese’s Miniature Cups is slightly lower in calories and fat than Alter Eco—210 calories, 12 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein, but is loaded with 19 grams of sugar. Similarly, one serving of mini Snickers (four pieces) totals 190 calories, with 19 grams of sugar, 8 grams of fat, and 3 grams of protein. Miniature Almond Joys are one of the healthier picks of the bunch, as a serving size (two bars) contains 160 calories, 9 grams of fat, 16 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

“Chocolate candy bars containing ingredients like nuts are going to be better options, because the protein and fats will help keep you from crashing later,” Kadey said. “Also, they’ll fill you up faster, so you’re less likely to overindulge.”

Milk chocolate candy that doesn’t contain nuts tends to rank higher in sugar levels. Filled with a fluffy nougat, 3 Musketeers mini bars have less calories than those listed above—just 170 calories for a seven-piece serving—and only have 5 grams of fat, but pack in 27 grams of sugar and just 1 gram of protein. For a similar calorie count, you would be better off eating a serving size (seven pieces) of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Kisses, which have 9 grams of fat but only 18 grams of sugar.

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“You should aim for about 120 calories and less than 10 grams of sugar,” Kadey says, when asked what basic guidelines to follow when choosing candy. For example, you could eat three Hershey’s Special Dark miniature bars, which total 120 calories and roughly 11 grams of sugar.

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth After You Ride

We know what you’re thinking: If I’ve ridden this many miles, can’t I afford to eat some candy? Kadey said that while exercise doesn’t make you immune to the bad effects of candy, if you’re craving the sweet stuff, it’s fine t to reward yourself with a few pieces right afterwards.

“When you finish [exercising], your body needs to replenish its fuel stores anyway, so the sugar and fat won’t be as detrimental,” he says. Of course, candy shouldn’t be all you’re refueling with—make sure to eat a balanced meal, like any of these fall-inspired dishes.

Still, it’s best to limit the amount of candy you eat. The easiest way to avoid temptation? Keep it out of sight. “Don’t leave candy buckets out in the open,” Kadey says. Instead, he recommends storing it in the cupboard or freezer, then taking out just a few pieces before returning the bag to its hiding place.

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“Think of Halloween treats like a reward, not a routine,” Kadey says.

The bottom line: It’s okay to treat yourself to some candy at Halloween or any other occasion. Just be smart about what you choose, when you indulge (after a ride is best), and enjoy it in moderation.

Are Halloween Candy Cravings Hard To Battle?

Our Skinny Elite weight loss curbs appetite and cravings with a three part appetite control formula that stimulates metabolic processes to burn stored fat while providing you energy, without leaving you jittery or nauseated. Skinny Elite helps you not crave the fattening pumpkin flavored sweets.

This information does not replace the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Weight loss results may vary. Results can vary due to activity levels, calories consumed, proper supplement use and water consumption. These statements have not been approved by the Food & Drug Administration.
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