Okay, so you might be too old to go trick-or-treating now, but Halloween season does mean Halloween candy time. Bonus points if you have a kid or know a kid you can "borrow" some Snickers or Kit Kats from. Candy can be found everywhere this time of year—if you go over to a friend's house, they might have a bowl of fun-sized candy bars, or you might find some in your office (thanks, HR). And if you're really smart about buying candy, you'll be at your local drugstore for discounted candies on November 1 (I know I will be!). Bottom line, you're probably going to be tempted with a lot of sweet treats, so how can you indulge while making sure you're not screwing with your healthy eating plan?
The answer: Let yourself live a little. According to integrative dietitian nutritionist Robin Foroutan, MD, RDN, HHC, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, "The best Halloween candy to eat is the one that you love the most!" She continues, "Eat it slowly—enjoy the smell, the flavor, and texture—really savor it so that you get maximum enjoyment." However, she does caution all you candy lovers to eat a healthy snack before heading to a party so you make better choices once you get there. And if there's one special treat you can't wait to eat every year on Halloween, go for it and move on. "Remember," she says, "one meal at a party or one day of eating a bit of candy is not going to ruin your health. Do your best, get the healthy foods and exercise in, and enjoy."
That's the best answer we've ever heard. But before you start going to town on a whole bag of fun-size Twix, we asked nutritionists whether there were candies out there that were better for you and which ones weren't so good. Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Nancy Farrell Allen, MS, RDN, had this to say: "Some choices might be better than others. For example, candies with dark chocolate, dried fruit and/or nuts provide certain health benefits."
While all candies aren't exactly the best for your healthy diet, there are some that are a little bit worse. Foroutan and Allen pointed to four:
This polarizing candy makes Foroutan's list. "As far as which kinds of candy are better than others, that's tricky. Things like candy corn are kind of the worst since it's just sugar (more likely high fructose corn syrup), waxes, artificial food colors, and flavors. There's nothing there to satisfy—I say this as someone who doesn't like candy corn at all, so I have no problem calling it out," she says.
A lot of these have the same unhealthy ingredients as candy corn, Foroutan says, but they're a personal favorite for her.
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"Hard candies, fruit-flavored candy chews, or powders provide a source of added sugar," Allen says. They probably have a lot of artificial colors and flavorings, too.
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When it comes to chocolate, white is the worst, and dark is the best. "Dark chocolate is healthier than milk chocolate and at least has some antioxidants. White chocolate is just sugar and fat, so that's not the best," Foroutan says. "But a combo of chocolate with nuts is slightly better because it won't crash your blood sugar as much as some other kinds of candy."
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As for the "healthy" options, they might not be good for you in the same way that a plate of veggies or a bowl of fruit will be, but they may be better choices than other candies out there. Per Foroutan, "There are a lot of brands that have really upped the candy game by removing artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and sugar alcohols."
And when it comes to choosing something to eat, Allen recommends checking the nutritional label for serving size, servings per container, and sugar and fat content.
But again, don't beat yourself up if you went for a handful of candy corn or gummy worms. "Let's face it, says Foroutan. "It's the big-brand candies that are getting passed around on Halloween, so it goes back to choosing to thoroughly enjoy the kind you like the most and then moving on!" Keep your meals healthy and allow yourself to indulge in a small treat without the guilt.
Take a look at some of our favorite healthier-for-you options below:
We have these in THE/THIRTY's offices, and let me tell you, they get snatched up really quickly. These peanut butter cups are made with dark chocolate, have only five grams of sugar, are gluten-free and certified vegan, and contain no dairy, soy, or artificial flavors. They also make an almond butter version, too.
Foroutan recommends Little Secrets for its candy-coated chocolates. Each piece is made of fair-trade dark chocolate, and the candy has no artificial ingredients and flavors or corn syrup. The coloring of the candies come from fruit and vegetable extracts, such as spirulina, pumpkin, beets/
These Sun Cups are Foroutan's favorite. If you have food allergies, these might be for you since they're free from peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, gluten, soy, egg, fish, shellfish, corn, sesame, coconut, and mustard.
Not a fan of chocolate? You can still enjoy some gummies. These fish-shaped treats have three grams of sugar (in the entire bag!). There are no artificial ingredients, either.
Skinny Dipped almonds can fix any sugar craving. For these coffee-flavored ones, there are five grams of protein, three grams of fiber, and only 150 calories per serving.
These ones are on-brand for Halloween—each gummy is shaped either like a jack o' lantern, spider, witch hat, or skull. They're made with fair trade organic cane sugar, and free of artificial colors, flavors, and high fructose corn syrup. Plus, they're vegan, Kosher, and gluten-free.
YumEarth pops are vegan and are free of peanuts, tree nuts, high fructose corn syrup, soy, egg, and dairy. They're also made with real fruit juice. Plus, there are some fun flavors like hot chili and sour.
If your weakness is caramel, these might help your cravings. They're made with coconut milk instead of dairy, and they contain 30% less sugar than other caramels.
We love this cheeky gummy bear "cleanse." Popular candy brand Sugarfina paired up with popular juice brand Pressed Juicery to create gummy bears infused with some good-for-you ingredients like vitamins A and C. And while we don't recommend doing this "cleanse" over eating your daily serving of fruits and vegetables, this is a better-for-you option that's a lot of fun.
Love tart, sour flavors? You're going to want to try these gummies. These contain 85% less sugar than other fruit chews. Plus, there's plant-based and colored with natural fruit and vegetable juices.
These are great to snack on to satisfy your chocolate cravings. Foroutan's favorite kind is the dark chocolate and pumpkin seed with sea salt. Pumpkin seeds are rich in fiber and zinc.
We're already fans of Justin's nut butters, so these mini peanut butter cups were a no-brainer for this list. They're gluten-free, non-GMO, and contain no trans fat.
Fans of PSLs are going to want to try these spiced pumpkin pie candies. Like other Little Secrets candies, these do not have artificial colors, flavors, or ingredients.
Peach rings are a childhood favorite of mine, so I was excited to see that there was a better-for-you version out there. These are low in sugar, and there are only 80 calories per bag.