Far into my first years of practicing a healthy lifestyle, I found myself drawing a line at Halloween. “It’s Halloween,” I said. “This is no time for dietary dogma.” And into the giant bag of fun size candy I descended.
If the grocery store shelves tell you anything, it’s that many of us feel the same way. Despite our ever-increasing knowledge of the dangers of high sugar consumption, one look at your local store and you’d think candy was as necessary as water. There are aisles devoted to chocolate bars, colorful sugar gummies, wrapped candies, and so much more. And during this time of the year, we buy these confections by the pound to get ready for excited trick-or-treaters… and usually stash a little bit for ourselves, too (shhhh).
No one wants to be that house passing out raisins or toothbrushes. But I think there’s a compromise here: choosing to offer “cleaner” treats. Sure, they’re still sugary, and they’re nothing you’d want to put in your morning smoothie. But at the very least, they cut out the worst offenders in the long list of bad candy ingredients. Here’s how to find treats for your candy bowl that make a healthy difference this Halloween (hint: you can find them at natural food stores and online).
Ingredients to Avoid:
- High Fructose Corn Syrup – You’re probably thinking, “everyone knows to avoid this ‘worst form of sugar’ already,” right? Perhaps, but that’s not to say you still won’t find it in a surprising number of candies! Check the ingredients, and make sure your choice is not a HFCS culprit.
- Hydrogenated Oils – These ugly oils are also known as trans fats, and are proven to raise bad cholesterol (and lower good cholesterol at the same time)! They’re put into candy to help it last longer on the shelf, and that’s exactly where those hydrogenated products should stay.
- Artificial Colors – Artificial colors are easy to spot on ingredient lists, because they look just how they sound: Blue #1, Yellow #5, and Red #40, to name a few. These dyes are literally chemicals, and have been linked to numerous health problems, from allergic reactions to cancer. Steer clear.
Ingredients to Choose:
- Dark Chocolate – When possible, choose candy that’s of a dark chocolate variety, as it will have less sugar than its milk chocolate counterpart. Bonus points (and nutrition) if it contains real cacao!
- Organic – An organic stamp won’t make candy any more nutritious, but it will ensure you avoid unnecessary pesticides and chemicals.
- Natural Colors – If a product uses natural colors, you know you’re on the right track. Ingredients like beets, cabbage, spirulina, and turmeric, are just a few of the surprising ingredients being used to create poppy hues in the healthier candy world. (And no, you can’t taste a difference!)
- Better Ingredients – Some candies are going out of their way to include truly good ingredients in their line up. Healthier fats like coconut oil, smart sugars like coconut sugar, natural flavors like fruit juice, and even bonus vitamins and minerals are starting to be tapped as solid contenders in the candy world. I think this is the definition of a “better choice:” It’s still candy, but at least it’s candy with benefits!