We trust you already know that candy isn’t the healthiest of food choices. In fact, in some cases it may be one of the worst options, but that doesn’t mean it has to be entirely off limits. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to a bite-sized Milky Way or sneaking a few Skittles every once in a while. But when an occasional candy turns into a ritual that occurs every day after lunch or each night after the kids are in bed, that’s when it can start to wreak havoc on your health.
And we all know how easy it is to develop a candy-eating habit around Halloween— when sweet treats seems to pop up just about everywhere you go and fighting temptations feels like an uphill battle. One way around this is to opt for healthier alternatives.
“It's important to keep candy consumption in moderation and to remember that there are always healthier alternatives to your favorite candies,” said Tara Zamani, M.S., C.N.S., a clinical nutritionist with ContentChecked. “Keep in mind that too much sugar consumption is directly linked to weight gain, ADD, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and poor digestion and immune system function as it wreaks havoc on the blood sugar and creates an unhealthy microflora environment in the gut.”
So, which sugar-filled offenders will wreak the most havoc on your insides?
Zamani recommended avoiding products that contain refined sugar, trans fats, hydrogenated oils, food coloring, high-fructose corn syrup, synthetic vitamins, preservatives and artificial flavors. On the other hand, her list of “nutritionist approved” ingredients includes natural sweeteners like agave nectar, brown rice syrup, honey, coconut palm sugar-syrup, tapioca syrup, stevia, reb A and monk fruit.
“When you’re shopping for healthier alternatives check the ingredient list and look for labels that say things like organic, non-GMO, no artificial flavors, no synthetic preservatives and no artificial colors,” she added.
To help you identify some of the worst candy culprits, Zamani weighed in to share what she feels are the most unhealthy types of Halloween candy and similar alternatives made with higher-quality, healthier ingredients. We’re not saying you should never eat a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup again, just be mindful of what these types of candies are made of and aim to save them for truly special occasions.
Zamani gives these a thumbs down because they’re made with non-organic, GMO peanuts, refined sugar and preservatives. She pointed out that one package (two peanut butter cups) has 13 grams of fat and 21 grams of sugar and especially recommends that kids avoid them if they’re at risk for being overweight or developing early onset diabetes.
“Justin’s creamy, chocolate peanut butter cups are gluten-free and made with organic ingredients,” Zamani said. “These treats are a much healthier version of the traditional Reese’s Peanut Butter cups as the peanuts in these are organic, non- GMO and there are no preservatives or trans fats.”
“This treat is highly processed as it contains enriched wheat flour, artificial colors and flavors, synthetic vitamins, high-fructose corn syrup, and loads of sugar — 12 grams for two cookies,” Zamani said. “Nowhere in the ingredient list does it list pumpkin. A combination of these ingredients can lead to an unbalanced blood sugar and indigestion, as our bodies have difficulty absorbing synthetic vitamins.”
“These Halloween cookies are made of unbleached wheat flour, organic sugar and natural flavors,” Zamani said. Plus, they have no preservatives or artificial colors or flavors, which Zamani said makes them a healthier choice compared to Oreos.
“This candy mainly consists of sugar in the form of high-fructose corn syrup — the most refined type of sugar that is also genetically modified,” Zamani said. Not to mention, it's made with artificial flavors and colors, which Zamani explained are especially problematic ingredients for kids with ADD, asthma and allergies.
“These are a great alternative to candy corn as these candies are sweetened with organic tapioca syrup, grape juice and organic cane sugar, and colored with turmeric, black carrot juice and annatto,” Zamani said. “Natural colors and flavors may not cause the side effects that artificial colors and flavors do, like head or stomach aches.”
These rainbow-colored candies are made with high-fructose corn syrup, more refined sugar, hydrogenated palm oil, and artificial colors and flavors, all of which Zamani definitely doesn't approve of. She noted that some of these ingredients may be linked to hyperactivity, food allergies and even cancer.
“These are free of artificial flavors, colors, preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup and are made with organic natural sweeteners and organic sunflower oil,” Zamani said. “Annie's fruit snacks are a good alternative to traditional Skittles for satisfying that ‘taste of the rainbow’ craving.”
Because they are sticky and waxy, Zamani said these candies are some of the worst for your teeth. Plus, she also mentioned that they’re made of not-so-nutritious ingredients like hydrogenated soybean oil and artificial flavors and colors. Additionally, just six small Tootsie Roll pieces can contain about 20 grams of sugar. That’s pretty close to the amount that the American Heart Association says women should limit their intake to for just one day.
“These lollipops are vegan, free of all allergens including gluten, free of high-fructose corn syrup, and free of artificial colors and flavors,” Zamani said. Plus, she pointed out, they’re made with all organic ingredients and real fruit extracts.”
“These processed fruit chews are full of artificial flavors and colors, trans fats, sugar, and are the worst candy for promoting tooth cavities and decay, as each packet of 10 contains 22 grams of sugar,” Zamani said. “These processed fruit chews are full of artificial flavors and colors, trans fats, sugar, and are the worst candy for promoting tooth cavities and decay as each packet of 10 contains 22 grams of sugar,” Zamani said. On top of that, Zamani added, Starburst can increase acidity in the mouth, which could break down tooth enamel.
“These chews are made with all organic ingredients, natural flavors and colors, and don't contain any high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, synthetic vitamins or hydrogenated oils,” Zamani said. “Plus, they are also gluten-free.”