Whether you’ve been wrist-deep in candy corn since mid-September or are simply flirting with danger every time you walk by the office stash of fun-sized chocolate, you know you’re never too old to fall into a Halloween candy coma. The threat is real. And we're here to help.
“It’s all about portion control,” says Heather Mangieri, R.D., a Pittsburgh-based sports dietitian. “Most candies have a lot of sugar, so it's better to find sweets that are low in fat or fat-free.”
So here’s your guide to Halloween candy, designed to help you out the next time you’re fishing through that plastic pumpkin. It’s by no means an exhaustive study of all things seasonal and sugary, so if you don’t see your favorite Halloween candy here? Keep it to a treat a day—and always, always brush your teeth afterwards—and you should escape the season unscathed.
The experts all agree: If you’re a fan of sugary-sweet or fruity candy, lollipops are the way to go. And Dum Dums are a perfectly sized classic. “They’re portion controlled and take longer to eat,” says Sarah Krieger, R.D. “Even though it’s all sugar, it still has less sugar than chewy candies, which go down much quicker.”
This bite size candy seems harmless enough, but the problem is, most of us grab it by the handful…over and over and over again. “If you’re not careful, you can end up eating 300 calories and 10 spoonfuls of sugar without realizing it,” says Cristina Rivera, R.D. “And once your sugar high wears off, you’re left with low blood sugar, which will make you tired and cause you to seek out even more treats.”
Since keeping it in control is mostly about portion size, any of the tiny square-shaped mini-bars, as a general rule, will be lower in calories and fat than their slightly larger “fun size” or “snack size” counterparts. And out of all varieties, the 3 Musketeers is best, weighing in at a respectable 24 calories and less than one gram of fat—probably because of it’s light, airy filling.
So the pumpkin is the shocker of the entire bunch, packing a whopping 180 calories and as much saturated fat as a fast food hamburger. Yikes. But PB fans need not forego their guilty pleasure all together—opting for two minis will satisfy your craving while doing about half the damage.
These really are a smart choice. (Sorry.) All bad puns aside, the fact that Smarties are straight-up sugar is cancelled out by two factors. First, there are 20-plus per roll, which stretches your calories out across lots of eating. And second, you have to unroll them one-by-one, which means the packaging isn’t exactly conducive to bingeing by the handful.
This applies to traditional salt water taffy or any of its more modern iterations, like Airheads or Laffy Taffy. And while none of these options are incredibly high in calories or fat, they’re all prime cavity-causing candidates, which means you might want to steer clear. (Hey, a nice smile is just as important as a trim waistline, right?) Their sticky, corn-syrupy texture gets stuck in your teeth’s crevices, making it almost impossible for saliva to wash it all away. Yeah. Chew on that for a minute…
As you probably know, dark chocolate has been shown to have some heart health benefits. But the thing is, the superfood needs to be at least 70% cocoa to count—and most popular brands fall well below that dividing line. So always check the package, or try a Ghirardelli Intense Dark Square, which comes in 72% or 86% cacao options. (There’s still a hefty dose of fat, but at least you’re getting some flavenoids too.)
Coconut is all kinds of buzzy right now. And when you pair it with dark chocolate, how can you go wrong? Well, hold up on your health trends here, because a Mounds bar (even the Halloween-sized little guy) gets almost half its calories from fat, a nutritional no-no. Plus, it packs over 3 grams of the saturated stuff per serving. Oh, and the dark chocolate isn’t dark enough to see any health benefits. Bummer, huh?