Nutritionists: ‘healthy’ Halloween candy is useless for kids, don’t give it out

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Last week I covered Sarah Hyland making some sane and refreshing comments about getting vaccinated and how science has saved her life. Her interview was promoting her partnership with a line of chocolate vitamins called Sourse. I guess they’re making vitamins more palatable than just mere gummies by adding chocolate as an incentive. Plus it has the benefit of making people think they’re “healthy” for you, but are they really? Huffington Post interviewed nutritionists about the “healthier” candies, the sugar free, keto, fiber and vitamin-fortified options that are available. The experts say that these types of candy are best for diabetics and people who need alternatives, but that kids and adults without health concerns should just eat regular candy in moderation. Nothing should be forbidden as long as children don’t have medical issues or allergies. I appreciated this message because I just saw the sugar free Russell Stover turtles bundled in with the regular candy at CVS. Don’t give those out! Sidenote: have you seen You season three? There are some funny references to how obsessed some people are about not feeding their children sugar and gluten.

If you’re feeling guilty about doling out bags full of sugar to the kids in your neighborhood, you only have a couple of options: Be the person who passes out apples on Halloween, or opt for “healthier” candy.

Healthier alternatives, made with less sugar or natural sweeteners, dark chocolate, the addition of vitamins, fiber or the latest superfoods, claim they are better for you. But is that really the case?

HuffPost spoke with nutritionists about whether there’s any reason to choose a healthier Halloween candy, and if so, who may benefit from the switch. We also checked in with nutritionists for recommendations.

The nutritionists we spoke to agreed that since sweets should be enjoyed in moderation, most people should choose the Halloween treats they like best, regardless of health halos.

“Sugar-free or buzzwords like ‘keto,’ ‘low-carb’ or ‘superfood’ don’t necessarily make sweets healthier,” registered nutritionist Amanda Frankeny told HuffPost. “While these labels sound nutritious at face value, too much candy of any type can lead to cavities and poor nutrition.”

What may be more important than the nutritional composition is the relationship to eating it. ”You don’t want to deprive your little ones of the real deal, or else they may go scrounging around for it without your supervision and eat large quantities of that candy,” said Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, author of “Better Period Food Solution.”

[From Huffington Post]

I’ve told this story before (and I hope she’s not reading this but if so I did tell her to her face) but I talked to a nutritionist who told me to stop eating certain snacks, like bottled ranch dressing and packaged peanut butter crackers, due to “chemicals.” I told her chemicals are in everything and I shouldn’t have to give up things I like. There’s such a push for “pure” food or more “healthy” alternatives when it should be about moderation and not limiting foods or classifying them as good or bad. Granted I should not talk given the amount of candy I eat, but I agree that nothing should be forbidden. The “healthy” candy is gimmicky, and costs more than regular, better-tasting candy. Kids should be able to enjoy regular delicious candy in moderation.

If people want to give out little toys, pencils or school supplies for Halloween that’s a different story. Only dentists get a pass to give out toothpaste, floss and toothbrushes.

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Photos credit: Pexels: Charles Parker and Yaroslav Shuraev

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26 Responses to “Nutritionists: ‘healthy’ Halloween candy is useless for kids, don’t give it out”

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  1. SomeChick says:

    there’s some good news! and incredibly adorable pictures.

  2. Betsy says:

    I gotta stop you right there, Celebitchy. I love candy. I love candy in all caps. I love candy so much that it’s and actual vice for me. BUT there is one brand of “healthy” (they don’t market it that way, at all) candy that I love. You may be saying, “Betsy, if it doesn’t market itself as “healthy,” why are are you piping up?” Because it’s effing delicious. It’s the stupidest named candy in the world – “Little Secrets” – but it’s so good. It’s the candy I have been wanting and if it appeared, looking faintly off brand for its unfamiliarity, in my kids’ Halloween baskets, I would steal it all.

    I’ve read that European candy has less sugar but tastes more like the ingredients that are in it and this is how this tastes.

  3. Seraphina says:

    Everything in moderation is the key as I get older. No diet eliminating certain foods is good because (for me) it’s not sustainable.
    We had a chemical engineer from Europe tell us that anything fat free or sugar free is not healthy and to eat low fat or lower sugar. Fat free and sugar free have too many chemicals and to stay away. I have stuck to that ever since.

    • Betsy says:

      I think the thing about moderation and children’s candy intake is that, as a parent, I have to bat away SO MUCH candy from grandparents. It’s less of a problem now since we’re not seeing grandparents much yet, but in my experience, baby boomer grandparents do not agree with parents limiting their kids’ sugar intake, and they are comfortable with a very high level of sugar, like appallingly so. It’s hard to do “moderate” sugar intake when your parents and in laws are sending huge bags of candy. I do give out “real candy” (I’m not paying for the brand I mentioned above for neighborhood randos on Halloween) but “moderation” is a bit of a joke when you’re pushing back against entitled grandparents who think they should be able to “treat” the kids into vomiting or a migraine.

      • MarcelMarcel says:

        @Betsy I don’t have kids but I’ve seen that dynamic play out and it must be so stressful.

        My beef with older generations is forcing you to eat everything on your plate while simultaneously making super mean spirited comments about the weight of any womxn in the vicinity. (Either to their face or behind their back). To be super clear my mum never did this and just let me listen to my hunger cues. But other relatives did. It took active effort in my twenties to teach myself that I didn’t have to eat past the fullness if there was still food on my plate.
        My sister is about 15 years older than me so her ex husband was more like an uncle. As a teenager I was just sitting at the table happily eating chocolate cake.
        He said ‘You better be careful or you won’t be able to fit through the door by the time you’re 21’.
        I replied ‘Who cares I’d still be the same person’. And then just continued to eat my cake. It’s one of my favourite memories when it comes to small acts of teenage rebellion.

    • SarahCS says:

      I couldn’t agree more, excessive consumption is the issue, of anything. Enjoy the best version of things and know when to stop.

      On a related note I bought some sugar free cola bottles a few years back (because they were cola bottles not because they were sugar free) and I don’t know what they’d used instead of the sugar – they were some ‘natural’ brand – but after hoovering up the whole bag wow did I have a terrible few hours. If you want a better idea search the internet for the thread of amazon reviews for sugar free haribo, I can’t get though it without crying with (horrified) laughter.

      Now I stick to regular gummy sweets!

      I hope that’s not too tasteless to have as a comment here.

      • Betsy says:

        I’ve had sugar free candies in moderation (there’s that moderation word again) and they’re fine.

        I do wish I had known about sugar alcohols’ laxative effect after my first kid was born. That would have worked a lot better than whatever meds they recommended after the c-section.

  4. detritus says:

    Pure and ‘clean’ eating is just another way to rebrand restrictive dieting. I’m not surprised people are trying to push it on kids.

    Orthorexia, a disorder that has people over fixated on ‘clean’ eating is a recognized medical problem but isn’t talked about a lot in regards to diet culture.

    • SusieQ says:

      I have a friend with orthorexia. She follows a lot of recipe blogs maintained by other people with orthorexia. The lengths my friend will go to in order to avoid ingesting sugar are truly ridiculous. She eats so much honey and maple syrup, thinking they are “healthy.”

  5. MarcelMarcel says:

    Abbey Sharpe has some good videos on Youtube debunking diet culture myths about ‘healthy’ versions of treats like candy. The podcast Maintenance Phase also does amazing job of debunking toxic diet culture myths and analysing the social context that allows them to take root.
    My sister gave me some of the best healthy eating advice I’ve ever received- just get the food in it’s original form instead of falling for marketing ie ‘low fat’ ice cream, ‘low sugar’ cake. If you read the label they’ve usually replaced the sugar with loads of salt or the fat with loads of refined sugar etc… They have to make the food palatable. Plus the food is less satiating so you naturally compensate by eating more of it.
    Food is meant to be enjoyable and nourishing. And there’s actually no such thing as inherently ‘bad’ or ‘good’ food.
    A lot of these conversations around ‘healthy treats’ ignores that poverty, food deserts and lack of access to healthcare are the main causes of obesity. Furthermore, weight isn’t the only indicator of health.

  6. gemcat says:

    I think looking at the whole picture is way more important. Like gelatine, or palm oil, are they really necessary for something as frivolous as candy or can we find suitable, more sustainable, replacements ..and in those instances I often look for vegan or “healthy” labelled -options because well, you’re more likely to find candy without those specific ingredients then. Especially when it comes to marshmallows and chocolates.
    Also, sweet soft licorice has only 4 ingredients if done well, even bigger brands like Panda (at least their plain option) doesn’t contain refined sugar (only molasses) but still tastes great ..in moderation..if you like licorice that is ;)

  7. Mel says:

    Let your kids have their Halloween candy. Don’t let them eat it all at once, I’d rather eat real sugar, than some “I don’t know what’s in it” sugar substitute. These people need to stop pushing disordered eating , especially on children.

  8. Ariel says:

    It is Halloween. It is one day. Just give the children a piece of candy.

    And i was so sad that particular woman in You season 3 did not die.

    On a personal note- i try to avoid grocery stores and drug stores the day or two after Halloween because i cannot just eat one piece of discounted candy. I will eat all of it.

  9. Marigold says:

    Give out the good stuff!!

  10. ME says:

    Well this is the second Halloween I won’t be giving out candy. We have high Covid numbers and low vaccination rate…plus kids can’t get vaccinated yet anyways. Maybe next year kids…let’s hope !

  11. Lady Keller says:

    If anyone doesn’t want to hand out candy, or is inclined to buy “healthy” candy I recommend things like stickers/crayons/tattoos from the dollar store instead. My kids are so used to getting candy on halloween that when they get something like the above mentioned it is way more exciting than the usual run of the mill halloween candy.

    Side note- much of the healthy candy has artificial sweeteners which make some of us sick. I cannot tolerate any kind of artificial sweeteners and I think one of my sons is the same. You may think you’re doing us a favor by giving us a low sugar alternative, but in reality you’re condemning us to a day on the couch wondering why we’re feeling like this. It’s halloween, it’s not time to worry about our diets.

    • Betsy says:

      Uff, I gotta disagree with you on the dollar stores objects. They get played with for 30 seconds and then it’s landfill.

      The lower sugar brand I recommended above isn’t fake sugars; it’s just less sugar and I really enjoy tasting the candy and not the SHOOOOGARRRRR flavor. They taste more like I remember candy tasting back in the 80s.

    • MarcelMarcel says:

      I keep bubble wands at home for when kids come over and they absolutely love them. Plus blowing bubbles requires you to slow your breathing down. So if a kid is dealing with anxiety it’s a fun way to teach them a breathing exercise.

      I also keep chalk around so kids draw on my fence and pavement. My friends kid was hyped on from a long car trip. So we just let him write the naughtiest words he could think of while the other kid happily drew a pair of jeans.

      Halloween trick and treating isn’t really a thing where I live so I’m not sure if that’d translate as a good treat? But I always have bubbles and chalk because all the kids I know have a lot of fun with them.

  12. North of Boston says:

    For some of the so-called healthy candies, that are supposedly better for people with medical issues, a quick look at the ingredients list and nutrition panel often shows they really aren’t any better.

    For example, you might think “sugar free” foods are better for diabetic people. But what they are trying to avoid (or limit) is carbohydrates, particularly low fiber no vitamin no mineral no protein carbohydrate foods that will raise blood sugar too much, kick off an insulin response etc.

    And if you compare for example Russell Stover SF candy to their regular offerings, the number of carbs in a serving is almost exactly the same eg 24g in regular chocolates and 23g in the SF chocolates… plus you get the funky tasting additives, odd digestive impacts, and higher price. Why bother? Just eat a portion of the real deal … in moderation.

  13. Heather H says:

    Its like children with diabetes and serious allergies don’t exist (eyeroll). Generally parents with children with these issues go out of their way to provide acceptable candy to others. I don’t think they should be shamed for that, nor do I think these kids should have to sit out Halloween because people refuse to understand some pretty common health conditions.

  14. A says:

    I agree. Most importantly, teaching and demonstrating the concept of moderation from a young age is much more helpful for children when they become adults than forbidding things outright. When you forbid things, you’re simply creating a time limit for how long they need to abide by your rules. Not to mention, many children either start to hoard forbidden foods, or they just learn how to hide their consumption of forbidden foods from their parents. Neither of those two outcomes is good or healthy for children, and they have consequences for when those kids grow up into adults and presumably have the power to do whatever the f-ck they want.

  15. Truthiness says:

    I try to always give out decent candy, Reese’s peanut butter cups and KitKats but I think they should also put out trail mix packets that combine sugar with some protein, some tiny bit of nutrients.

  16. The Recluse says:

    We’re going to give out (to those few kids who come out on a Sunday night) candy of varying kinds, plus organic fruit gummy bears, and souvenir Halloween pencils (Peanuts: Snoopy, Charlie Brown, etc, and Halloween erasers. That way they have goodies for now and things they can use for awhile afterward. The kids really like getting Halloween pencils.