Halloween seems to usher in “candy season” in grade schools, where there seems to be ongoing parties through the end of the year. You may read some articles this week that talk about the “best” or “worst” candy, but my advice is to enjoy small pieces of your favorites, and limit portions for your children.
I Have a Sweet tooth But I Don’t Sugarcoat
Candy tastes good. That’s why people like it. Children are going to be exposed to it throughout their life, and chances are they aren’t going to be able to avoid it completely.
With all of the labeling we see on foods these days (ingredient absence claims like “free-from preservatives”, etc, or health claims), you gotta love candy for being true to itself. Candy pretty much wears its “treat” category on its sleeve with no claims about health. All candy is well labeled too, so you can easily see how much sugar and fat is packed into it (sometimes you may have to divide or multiply).
Sugar and carbohydrates can lead to cavities however. For years, your dentist has been telling you to brush your teeth several times a day, and has probably warned you about the dental caries that it can cause. The stickier it is (gummy, chewy candies), the worse it is for your teeth (chocolate actually clears through the mouth pretty quickly). Also, keep in mind that organic candy still has all of the sugar, fat and calories of non-organic. “Organic fruit snacks” claiming they are “healthier”, have more in common with candy than fruit.
It’s a Treat
It’s should be no surprise that candy isn’t something that should be a regular part of your diet. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to ban it. Just like any treat, you simply need to consume it with the facts in mind, in moderate amounts, and only occasionally (I don’t recommend being a fun-sucker and handing out toothbrushes or raisins on trick-or-treat night).
If you have diabetes it’s best to restrict your candy intake. If you do splurge, count the carbohydrates into your allotment for the meal or snack, and adjust accordingly.
The Best and Worst of It
Generally I don’t like putting food into “good” or “bad” categories, but in the case of candy, it’s a little easier to do. While some RDs have differing opinions from my own, the final message I have for my readers is this:
It all comes down to portions, and smaller is better.
Here’s why I grouped these candies into “best” and “worst” groups. Worst types are the most sugary and gooey. These candies are worse for your teeth, and most kids need to reduce the sugar, over fat, in their diets (although the “best” types also contain sugar – it’s candy!). If portion is controlled, I’m not too worried about a 2-grams-of-fat-difference. And, even though it’s a minuscule, a chocolate bar with some peanut butter or a few nuts provides some nutrition. However the all-sugar type candy, like candy corn or “fruit snacks”, (which generally aren’t “fruit”, unless they are labeled as “made from 100% fruit and fruit juice), is completely void of nutrition unless fortified with vitamin C.
Watch out for any candy brands trying to sell a health claim. A Reese’s peanut butter cups are going to provide just as much protein as an organic peanut butter cup. However you don’t want your daily protein source to be coming from candy. There are loads more brands and types of candy out there, but this gives you a few things to consider when comparing common candies seen this time of year.
My recommendation is to choose only fun-size or bit-size candies, and don’t overdo it (see my tips for trick-or-treat night). And always brush your teeth! Here are some nutrition facts to compare:
- Reese’s Miniature Peanut Butter Cup, ~44 calories, 2.6 grams fat, 4.6 grams sugar, <1 gram protein
- Regular Reese’s Cup, single, 110 calories, 6 grams fat, 11 grams sugar, 3 grams protein
- Hershey Kiss, 22 calories, 1.3 grams fat, 2.5 grams sugar, 0 protein
- Fun Size Nestle Crunch Bar, 70 calories, 4 grams fat, 8 grams sugar, 0 protein
- Fun Size Kit Kat bar, 70 calories, 3.7 grams fat, 7 grams sugar, 1 gram protein
- Fun Size 3 Musketeers, 60 calories, 2 grams fat, 9 grams sugar, 0 protein
- Fun Size Snickers, 71 calories, 4 grams fat, 8 grams sugar, 1 gram protein
- Tootsie Rolls, 6 pieces, 155 calories, 1 gram fat, 23 grams sugar, 1 gram protein
- Twizzlers, 4 pieces, 158 calories, 1 gram fat, 18 grams sugar, 1 gram protein
- Fun Dip, 1 pack, 50 calories, 0 fat, 13 grams sugar, 0 protein
- Candy Corn, 10 pieces, 75 calories, 0 fat, 16 grams sugar, 0 protein
- “Fruit” Snacks, 1 small pouch, 90 calories, 0 fat, 21 grams sugar, 1 gram protein