Dressing up in costumes is fun and all, but everyone knows the best part about Halloween is the candy, especially for kids. But some grown-ups feel guilty about all the sugar trick-or-treaters get, so they hand out something else, like boxes of raisins or “healthier” candy. There are all kinds of options for alternatives made with less sugar or natural sweeteners, dark chocolate, or with vitamins added. And they claim to be better for you, but are they?
Here’s what nutritionists have to say:
- Candy is never going to be broccoli- Some “healthier” candies promote added vitamins, and trendy prebiotics and probiotics, but registered nutritionist Amanda Frankeny points out they’re still “sugar-covered calories making the tiniest nutritional contribution to what you need for the day.” Candy can’t replace the nutrients you get in veggies, no matter what the label says.
- Moderation is key- Nutrition experts say that since sweets should be enjoyed in moderation, people should just pick the Halloween treats they like best, regardless of “health halos” that make them seem better for us.
- Buzzwords don’t make sweets healthier- Seeing “sugar-free” and buzzwords like “keto,” “low-carb,” or “superfood” doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better for you, according to Frankeny. The labels sound nutritious, but too much of any type of candy “can lead to cavities and poor nutrition,” she says.
- Encourage a healthy relationship with sweets- Kids' relationship with candy may be more important than the nutritional content of it. Registered dietitian Tracy Lockwood Beckerman says if you deprive little ones of real candy, they may sneak around for it without supervision and eat too much of it. Frankeny explains, “People who celebrate eating candy rather than thinking of it as a guilty pleasure are less likely to have body image issues or worry about overdoing it.”
- Some people may benefit from healthier candies- Treats with less sugar could be a better option for those who want to indulge in Halloween treats but have to be mindful of medical conditions, like diabetes.
- Otherwise live it up- But for everyone else who doesn’t have food allergies, sensitivities to certain ingredients or medical issues, go for the real deal. Beckerman says, “Halloween comes once a year and should be enjoyed as is, without making nutritional modifications, if possible.”