Halloween is a fabulous holiday with tons of fun spooky parties, haunted houses, and trick-or-treating. The best part of any of these activities is taking home a giant bag full of loot! But…how can we enjoy that candy responsibly? It’s hard not to eat that favorite candy once it gets dropped in the trick-or-treat bag. Since it will be there and you have to work with temptation, let’s explore ways to enjoy Halloween candy and treats without overdoing the sugar!
Isn’t candy just carbs? Yes, mostly, as some candy has some fat, too. Let’s talk about carbs to clear up what’s beneficial and what needs to be limited!
Carbohydrates include several nutrients. Most carbohydrates are fiber, starches, and sugars. Fiber and starch digest and absorb slowly, leading to a lower and slower spike in blood sugar after eating. We use these carbohydrates for energy and store them for fuel! Sugars, however, are very quickly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, which causes a much quicker spike in blood sugar. This can lead to a crash later with feelings of hunger, tiredness, and sometimes feeling shaky and cranky. Nobody likes feeling this way, so let’s talk about how to avoid it!
How much sugar can I have in one day? According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, less than 10% of calories should come from added sugars per day, which is most of the sugar found in candy. (Note: 1 gram of sugar=4 calories.) Added sugars can be found on the nutrition facts label, but sometimes it is not separated from natural sugars already found in that food and is just listed as “Sugars.” For example, yogurt naturally contains 12 g lactose per cup, but sometimes has added sugar that isn’t listed as “Added Sugars”. In this case, it’s better to count “sugars” in your total daily intake, trying not to exceed the amount listed in the table below. Maximum daily amounts for kids and adults are listed below in grams, based on the calorie recommendations for gender and age group:
Age Group and Gender
Maximum Amount of Added Sugar Daily
Child, 1-3 years
Source: 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Appendix 7. www.dietaryguidelines.gov
*Ranges are based on higher calorie needs, which depend on height, weight, and activity level.
Chobani brand Vanilla Greek Non-Fat Yogurt:
Remember, it’s not just candy that has added sugars, but plenty of foods do, too: peanut butter, yogurt, soup, ketchup, chips, salad dressing, maple syrup, honey, and other sauces have added sugars. Stay aware of your sugar intake by looking at food labels. You’ll find “Added Sugars” under “Carbohydrates” (see the label above for vanilla yogurt as an example). Explore your food labels to see how much added sugar you eat in a day to meet your goals!
How much is in one piece? Even the “fun size” and “mini” versions of each candy bar can still pack a pretty big punch in calories and sugar, most of which will be considered “Added Sugar.” Each type varies, and here is a list for reference:
Source: Diabetesforecase.org. http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2010/oct/carb-counts-for-halloween-candy.html
How can I make it easier to limit my intake? Pairing a piece of candy with some protein, fruit, whole grain, or vegetables makes it easier to just have a single piece at a time. A fun-size bar with some peanut butter and apples, popcorn and almonds, cheese and whole-grain crackers, or persimmons and pecans are some ideas that pair well with chocolate and make the candy treat a bit heartier, slowing the blood sugar spike from the candy.
What about the candy bowl at Halloween parties? Contribute to some of the healthier options at the table to keep from overloading at the giant candy bowl!
Use cookie cutters to cut cheese slices into ghosts, bats, pumpkins, or scaredy cats! Put the cheese on crackers for a fun way to balance out a piece of chocolate.
Turn apple slices, peanut butter, and almond slices into monster mouths! This will add some healthy fat and fiber with that candy!
Candy corn parfaits: layer pineapple chunks, orange slices, and a dollop yogurt on top to get a serving of fruit and protein as a fun treat. Use fresh, frozen, or canned fruit. Watch out for Added Sugar if using canned or frozen!
Make pumpkins from mandarin oranges and celery “stems!” Just peel the orange and add a small celery stick at one end to complete the pumpkin. Easy! https://www.activekids.com/food-and-nutrition/articles/16-healthy-halloween-treats-for-kids/slide-7
Make grilled cheese spider sandwiches by cutting the bread into rounds and grilling the sandwich. Add pretzels to make spider legs in the sides and add dried berries for spider eyes. You can also use a peanut butter sandwich, too!
Frozen BOO-NANAS! Make frozen bananas into ghostly treats. Cut the banana in half lengthwise, then in half. Add a popsicle stick at the bottom, and use mini chocolate chips at the top for eyes. Make mummies by piping peanut butter stripes around the banana!
Roasted pumpkin seeds: a savory treat for jack-o-lantern carving parties! After separating pumpkin seeds from the guts, boil the seeds in saltwater for 10 minutes. Pat them dry, season with olive oil and salt, and bake in the oven at 325 for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. High in magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, they’re a great replacement for chips or popcorn!
Other fun Halloween treat ideas: If you want to avoid handing out so much candy or give your little ones some fun activities that don’t involve candy, here are some other ideas that are fun for all ages!
Fun animal erasers
Noisemakers: party horns, kazoos, party blowers,
Have enough to share? Get paid to donate your Halloween candy! Tell your kids that they can make a soldier’s life a bit better by sharing some of their Halloween candy. Visit the Soldier’s Angels website for details and drop-off location sites: https://soldiersangels.org/TreatsForTroops.html
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