The Healthier Halloween Candy Guide

woman thinking with her hand over her mouth( — All those miniature candy bars lining the Halloween candy section of your local store look so harmless. But will the calories from that candy come back to haunt your waistline in the weeks ahead?

Candy in general is a big trigger for overindulgence, says Jayme Albin, MA, PhD, a cognitive-behavior therapist in private practice. Not only that, but our cravings for carbohydrates tend to increase as the weather gets colder and daylight hours get shorter. These two factors align at this time of year to make Halloween the perfect storm for calorie overload.

As any true candy-craver knows, trying to pass up Halloween candy completely may only make you want it more. But if you enjoy favorite treats in moderation every day leading up to the holiday, you may be less likely to overdo it when you’re nose-to-nose with that big bowl of goodies on Halloween night.

“Repeatedly behaving in moderation practices self-control around the stimulus and also encourages mindfulness,” says Albin, who believes that for many people mindfulness (being fully aware of what you’re eating while you’re eating it) is the secret to managing food cravings.

Lower-Calorie Halloween Treats

And when you’re buying Halloween candy or other treats for your controlled indulgences, keep in mind some choices are better than others. Here are just some better and worse candy and treat good and bad options.

Worse: Chewy candy like Dots (150 calories and 22 grams sugar in two mini-boxes) and Fruit Gushers (90 calories and 12 grams sugar  per pouch) …

Better: A chewy treat that has no calories or is naturally sweet.Try a piece of Ice Breakers gum (with no fat, calories, or sugar) or a mini-box of raisins (45 calories, 0 grams fat, 10 grams naturally occurring sugars).

Worse: Chocolate bars with high-calorie caramel and peanut butter added, like Take 5 bars (105 calories, 5.5 grams of fat and 9 grams of sugar per fun-size bar)

Better: Chocolate treats with something low-calorie added (like puffy grains). Try mini Quaker Chewy Granola Bars (60 calories, 2 grams fat, and 4 grams sugar per bar) or fun-size Nestle Crunch Bars (60 calories, 3 grams fat, 7 grams sugar).

Worse: Chocolate bars filled with caramel, toffee or coconut, like Heath Miniatures with 115 calories, 7 grams fat, and 13 grams sugar for 3 bite-size pieces

Better: Plain milk or dark chocolate fun-size bars, like Hershey’s fun-size bar (67 calories, 4 grams fat, 8 grams sugar). Bonus: You can also use these for baking or to make s’mores.

Worse: Candy bars made with white chocolate like Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme, with 73 calories, 4 grams fat, and 6.3 grams sugar per fun size bar …

Better: Dark chocolate treats, like 3 Musketeers Mint fun-size bars (63 calories, 2.3 grams fat and 9 grams sugar per bar) and Dove Dark Chocolate pieces (84 calories, 5 grams fat and 7.6 grams sugar for two foil-wrapped pieces). White chocolate not only has more saturated fat than any other type of chocolate, but lacks the healthy phytochemicals found in cocoa and dark chocolate.

Worse: Candies with sugar-sweetened peanut butter fillings, like Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins with 170 calories, 10 grams fat, and 16 grams sugar per package …

Better: Candy with whole nuts, which add protein, fiber and phytonutrients. Try peanut M&Ms, with90 calories, 5 grams fat, and 9 grams sugar per mini-pack.

Worse: Snack cakes like Ding Dongs and Hostess Scary Monster Cupcakes (180 calories and 7-9 grams of fat each) or Little Debbie Devil Squares and Cosmic Brownies (260-280 calories, and 11 grams of fat per package) …

Better: Portion-controlled snack cakes like Little Debbie 100 Calories Chocolate Cakes (3 grams fat and 12 grams sugar) or Hostess 100 Calorie Pack Twinkie Bites (2.5 grams fat and 11 grams sugar).

Worse: High-fat crunchy snacks like those in the Creepy Classic Mix with bags of Cheetos, Fritos, and Doritos (about 160 calories and 10 grams fat each), or mini bags of Cheez-It Sponge Bob Square Pants (160 calories, 8 grams fat)…

Better: Lower-calorie crunchies like Snyder’s 100 Calorie Pack Snaps Pretzels (with just 0.5 gram of fat) or the Smart Mix sack of 20 bags of baked snacks like Sun Chips, Baked Cheetos, Baked Doritos, and Baked Ruffles(with 120 calories and 4.5 grams for the Baked Cheetos).

Fun-size packs of high-sugar cookies like mini Oreos with 65 calories, 2.5 grams of fat and 5.5 grams of sugar per pack …

Better: Lower-sugar cookie fun size packs like Teddy Grahams (60 calories and 2 grams fat) or animal crackers.

More Tips for Halloween Calorie Control

Beyond making smarter choices on the snack aisle, Albin offers four tips for avoiding calorie overload at this time of year:

• Don’t skip on exercise or outdoor time.
Staying active and getting a daily dose of sunlight will help keep your mind and body balanced as the days grow shorter.

• Don’t snack mindlessly.
Remove the Halloween candy from your sight. Keep it in the refrigerator or a hard-to-reach cabinet so you’ll be fully aware of what you’re doing when you grab a couple of pieces.

• Decide ahead of time what your daily treat will be, and how many you’ll have.  Come up with a concrete number that works for you. Remind yourself that the candy will be there tomorrow if you want more.

• Stock up on healthy snacks and sugarless gum.
Have plenty of sugarless gum and healthy snacks (like baby carrots, grapes, apple slices) on hand for when you just feel like chewing on something.


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Candy & Cavities: Essential Tricks For Your Child’s Oral Health

young african american girl holding halloween candy in a jack o latern( — A child’s Halloween dream, and the mounds of candy involved, can be their parents’ worst nightmare. But pediatric dental experts say Halloween can be a time to teach your children good oral health habits for life, without depriving them of Halloween treats (think moderation).

Here are their five best tricks for healthy teeth:

Halloween Candy vs. Cavities: Don’t Make Kids Choose

Don’t deny your children the Halloween experience. That can send the entirely wrong message — deprivation — and make candy seem even more irresistible, leading to other problems. They may end up sneaking sweets or eating too much candy once they’re out on their own. Instead, let them have the joy of Halloween in all its sticky goodness and the experience of going to a party or trick-or-treating.

Choose candy together. After your children get back from trick-or-treating or a party, go through their bags of Halloween candy together. Tell them to each pick the 10 or so (whatever number you decide, based on factors such as age) treats they want the most.

Get the unpicked treats out of sight.
You can donate them to a food bank or freeze them if you can’t bear to throw them out.

Teach your children about cavity-causing snacks. This can also be a good time to teach (or remind) children that it isn’t just excess sugar that can lead to cavities. Snacks such as pretzels, with starches that stay in the mouth longer, can also lead to cavities, as can fruit juices.

Healthy Lessons That Children Can Also Learn

Letting children help decide what is a reasonable amount of candy to keep has benefits beyond good oral health. The message isn’t “candy is bad,” but that candy and other sweets, in excess, can lead to cavities. Children learn two additional important lessons:

  • How to control their diet
  • What they eat relates to oral health, not just physical health

Preventing Cavities in Children: Set a Treat Time

With your child, set a time of day to eat Halloween candy. This ritual “treat time” may last long after Halloween and help promote healthy thinking about treats:

  • Children learn that eating sweets shouldn’t be an all-day feast. Moderation is key.
  • Knowing they have a specific sweet time can help make children less inclined to think about eating sweets at other times of the day.

Children’s Oral Health: Set Up a Teeth Brushing Schedule

No matter when treat time is, it’s crucial to brush soon after. If it is nighttime, for example, brushing and flossing teeth before bed will help sweep away the recent sweets. Fluoride mouth rinses for kids also help prevent tooth decay, according to the American Dental Association.

Until a child is 7 or 8 years old, a parent should help with teeth brushing, not simply supervise. Even after age 8, parents should supervise brushing. That includes friendly reminders to older children to brush and floss until they get to high school, when it should be a habit.

Use Disclosing Tablets, Swabs, or Solution

Some dentists use ”disclosing tablets” to spot bacterial plaque on teeth. These chewable tablets temporarily stain the plaque that builds up on teeth.

Parents can also use disclosing tablets, solution, or swabs to show children how well they are brushing or flossing their teeth — especially if they already have a cavity or two. A 12-pack of disclosing tablets is available over the counter and online for about $5.

You may want to schedule a disclosing session once a week or so, to keep your child on his toes.

Keep Teeth Brushing Fun

You should replace toothbrushes every three or four months anyway, so make Halloween an occasion for getting your child a new brush. Dentists say that when children like the toothbrushes, they are more apt to enjoy brushing. Children can choose from a variety of kid-sized brushes that feature cartoon characters and colorful designs. Young children typically can’t wait to use a new toothbrush.

  • Children also like to pick out their own toothpaste. Give your child the freedom to pick from gels or pastes, different colors, and different flavors. Just check the tube label to be sure it contains fluoride.
  • Check the condition of your child’s toothbrush from time to time. If it doesn’t look worn after weeks of use, he may not be brushing well.