Halloween Candy Facts: What’s in the Bag?
Learn which Halloween treats are the best options for your sweet trick-or-treaters.
Have a Healthy Halloween
As trick-or-treating draws to an end Halloween night, the reality sets in: it’s time to play tug-of-war with your little one over their giant sack of sugar. He wants it all, and all you see are tummy aches and cavities. Read on to learn about treats that are a win-win, plus some healthier alternatives to offer up instead.
Peanut Butter Cups
If you’re faced with pile of candy bars, pick out these treats first. Though they definitely have the sugar and calories, candies with peanut butter or nuts (think Baby Ruth or Pay Day, too) serve a dual purpose. The chocolate makes your little one happy. The peanut butter makes them feel full more quickly. Plus, the nuts pack some protein and prevent a blood sugar crash later. That’s more than you can say for a plain chocolate bar.
Fun-Size Candy Bars
Keep an eye out for words like “mini” or “fun-size.” They can be a parent’s best friend when it comes to sorting through candy bags. These bite-sized versions of the most popular candy bars are pre-portioned; tuck the whole bars into the bottom of the bag and hand these out instead.
Gummy Bears, Worms, and Other Creatures
Offer your trick-or-treater a handful of colorful gummy bears. They require a little extra work to chew, and they’re typically lower in calories than chocolate alternatives. Plus, many gummy bears, worms, and other edible creatures are fat free. If you’re considering handing gummies out to your Halloween visitors, look for brands made with real fruit juice.
Nothing says fall like caramel-dipped apples. They’re delicious, chewy, and not such a terrible idea in terms of nutrition—at least not when compared to a regular-size candy bar. True, a handful of caramel candies has a good helping of calories and sugar, but they contain very little fat. Plus, if coating an apple (which is high in fiber and vitamin C) in caramel encourages your kids to eat a whole apple, that’s a sweet deal.
Dark Chocolate or Peanut M&M’s
The whole family can enjoy these candy-coated treats without too much worrying. Dark chocolate M&M’s—which are full of antioxidants and have less sugar than milk chocolate versions—may not be the candy of choice for your younger kids just yet, but parents and older siblings will definitely love these. Also a great choice: Peanut M&M’s. The nut adds some protein to the chocolate. Plus, nuts can help regulate blood sugar so the chocolate-induced surge doesn’t come crashing down later.
Lollipops are made from four things: sugar, corn syrup, water, and flavoring. But that short ingredient list is not what makes them a better choice for Halloween. Instead, it’s because they keep mouths busy—giving you time to distract and dump the candy you want your kids to forget. A healthier idea: look for lollipops and suckers made by natural candy companies. They use cane sugar and natural fruit flavors, and in many cases, their dyes come from fruits and vegetables, too.
Pretzels (With a Twist)
Here’s a chance to show some spirited creativity with the treats you hand out. Pack a single-serving container of peanut butter or chocolate hazelnut spread with a small bag of unsalted baked pretzels. (Many companies have started making pretzels in fun Halloween shapes.) They’re lower in calories and sodium than fried chips, and the peanut butter or chocolate is the perfect bit of sweetness.
Healthy & Delicious Trail Mix
Gone are the days of boring trail mixes. In their place are delicious custom mixes with fruits, nuts, and all the goodies any little ghost or goblin could want. Web sites cater to people who want to make nut mixes with the foods their family will actually eat and love. Some even let you make individual snack-size bags—perfect for trick-or-treaters! Include some almonds or cashews with your sweet dried fruits and chocolate-covered pretzels for added healthy fats and protein.
A Classic: Cracker Jacks
It’s a healthier snacking option, and it comes with a prize! What’s a better treat than that? Cracker jacks are a yummy combination of popcorn and peanuts coated with sweet caramel. They come in great snack-size bags, which is perfect for handing out or handing to your kids when they’re asking for something. On the plus side: Popcorn is a whole grain, and peanuts are a great source of protein. The caramel is made from sugar and molasses, but a half-cup of the popcorn mix has less sugar than some brands of yogurts marketed towards kids.
Popcorn: A Surprising Source of Whole Grains
Keep a bag of already-popped popcorn in the car for your kids to snack on between stops. Popcorn is very filling, and the kids get a healthy dose of whole grains and fiber. If you’ve got handout duty at home, offer individual, sealed bags of popcorn to the visitors instead of candy.
Sugar-free Bubble Gum
The concept is simple: Kids love gum, and if you give them gum, they’ll be so busy chomping and chewing (at least for a few minutes) that they won’t want to munch away on other candies. You can even keep them busy blowing bubbles.
Chocolate- or yogurt-covered raisins offer the best of two worlds: some sweetness mixed with a fruit. (Of course, if your child will eat raisins without the candy covering, that’s even better!)
Kid-Approved Granola Bars
Granola bars and snack bars come in a large variety of kid-approved flavors like chocolate chip, s’mores, and peanut butter. Most are made with whole grain oats, which is a source of fiber. And for about seven grams of sugar per bar, it’s a healthier alternative for sugary chocolate bars.
The No-Candy Option
Be the cool house on the block and hand out fun (inexpensive) toys like glow sticks, Slinkies, or yo-yos. If you’re only expecting a few visitors—your neighbors or grandchildren—consider treats like baseball cards, coloring books, or mini travel games. They will be enjoyed much longer—and without any of the negative health effects.
More Features on Healthy Eating for Children
Getting your child to eat healthy is never an easy task. Check out these additional resources for more information on children's nutrition, and tips to help keep your kids healthy and happy.