Healthy (well, almost) sweets: which Halloween candies will do less harm - ForumDaily
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Healthy (well, almost) sweets: which Halloween candies will do less harm

It's October, which means it's time to think about your costumes and go to the store for candy for those who love sweets. 'Tis the season for spooky decorations and silly jokes, but some parents may feel like Halloween is overshadowed by the fight against too much unhealthy sugar, reports USAToday.

Photo: IStock

If you're dreading the sweeter aspect of the annual spooky season, there are some expert tips to help solve the problem.

Which Halloween candy is the healthiest?

Halloween candy has little, if any, nutritional value. But these options are better than others, says Rose Britt, registered dietitian with Top Nutrition Coaching.

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According to Britt, the healthiest Halloween candy is Peanut M&Ms or similar complex candies. When it comes to multi-ingredient foods like peanuts, you're getting at least a little more than just corn syrup.

When it comes down to it, a serving of peanut M&Ms contains just under 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of protein, and 9 grams of sugar. A similarly sized serving of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups contains about the same nutritional value but with a little more added sugar, while Snickers has no fiber, 1 gram of protein and 9 grams of added sugar, according to nutrition labels.

“It's not a complete balance, but it will give us a greater feeling of fullness compared to our more traditional pure sugar candies,” says Britt.

Peanut M&Ms are also made primarily of milk chocolate. In comparison, Almond Joys are also made with nuts and chocolate, but mostly corn syrup. Britt explains that you need to pay attention to the first ingredient in the composition, which is the most in the candy, this is a good way to compare candies.

Nut candies are the best option, but if you like super sweet candies, Smarties are the healthiest option. One serving of Smarties contains only 25 calories and 6 grams of sugar. By comparison, Sour Patch Kids contains 110 calories and 24 grams of sugar per serving.

In general, candy contains little to no nutritional value and is not considered a “healthy” food. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting added sugar to less than 10% of total daily calories. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children over 2 years of age limit their daily added sugar intake to less than 25 grams.

But Britt says it's more about the context than the count.

“I wouldn't count grams of sugar on Halloween night,” Britt says. "Going forward, if you had one or two servings of candy for dinner and then limited your sugar intake as much as possible for the rest of the day, that's fine."

Britt, who specializes in pediatric nutrition, says the most important thing to remember is to make memories and enjoy the holidays with your family. But if you're not sure how to set limits and monitor your kids' candy consumption, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Set boundaries early

The best way to prepare is to make a plan before the game starts. Britt recommends letting your kids go wild in the evening and setting limits in the following days—perhaps one or two treats a day.

She also recommends setting a deadline based on the volume of candy your family consumes.

"Maybe if they don't have a ton of candy, 'We're going to do this until we run out of Halloween candy,' or if they have a ton of candy, 'We're going to do this until November 15th,'" she suggests.

Plan a nutritious meal before your treat.

Parents may not be able to control Halloween night, but they can be proactive about ensuring the family eats a balanced diet.

Britt recommends eating foods rich in protein and fiber, even if it's small. Fiber promotes balanced energy and reduces blood sugar spikes that lead to energy crashes. High-fiber foods include brown rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta, pita bread, and fruits and vegetables. Protein can help little sweet-eaters stay full longer. You can get it in large quantities from animal foods, such as meat, or plant foods, such as quinoa and soy. “At least you're getting some nutrients,” she says. “The bits they eat at dinner can slightly balance out the amount of sugar their body needs.”

And even if candy won't be available for weeks or months, parents can ensure balanced meals by stocking the refrigerator with meats, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. In this way, the child’s body will receive both plant proteins and animal proteins.

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Use "parent tax"

Parents may be familiar with the Halloween "parent tax" in terms of candy hoarding—what parent doesn't want to get their hands on a few Milkyways?

Britt makes another argument: levy a tariff on candy that is not yet safe for young children to eat.

“Up until the age of four, we have to be careful with nuts, hard candies, very sticky candies and chewing gum,” she says. “It’s a good way to weed out things that might be unsafe for very young children, especially if parents don’t think they can fully supervise them.”

Eat leftover candy during a meal or snack, not after.

It's easy and typical to view candy as a treat or a reward for good behavior. Britt opposes this tactic and recommends eating the prescribed candy during dinner, not after it. This helps kids see their entire plate as good—vegetables aren't just something disgusting they have to go through to get the good stuff. It also destigmatizes candy or sugar as “bad” or “junk food,” which can contribute to unhealthy attitudes toward food. This will also help you avoid conflict with a child who can't wait until dinner is over to eat candy.

Britt does not recommend combining food intake and distractions. You will feel more satisfied with even one piece of candy if you are not watching TV at the time.

Use it as a learning experience

You may not have thought of candy as a way to introduce picky eaters to new foods, but there is a way. Britt uses Almond Joys as an example that can help bring the flavor of coconut or almond into everyday meals.

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In the coming weeks, try a dinner that uses the same ingredient—coconut curry, for example—and talk to your child about the taste of both foods.
“This is a good bridge. When we see a new product in candy form, it becomes a little more exciting,” she says.
Repeated consumption of unfamiliar foods and creating positive social experiences during meals are proven methods for alleviating or preventing picky eating behavior, according to a journal article from the Center for Children's Academic Health.

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