Most of us are getting accustomed to facing the facts on processed foods and their creepy ingredients. Sure, we’re all for a treat now and then, like a packaged pastry or candy bar we grew up with, but for the most part our taste buds — and brain cells — have learned to move after learning too much about what’s in those “franken-foods”.
Here Dr. Josh Axe breaks down what’s up on the candy aisle. To be honest, we rarely name brand names like this on TCM, but we trust Axe and team and think these details are worth sharing here (especially this Halloween week!). The good news? We’ve got tons of ideas for really good homemade almond butter cups and clean candy, plus a few ideas about which storebought candies are best!
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are estimated to spend around $2.6 billion on candy annually, which equates to an average of $25.37 per person. Not only that, but the average Halloween candy haul reportedly contains up to 7,000 calories, which is the equivalent of approximately 28 hamburgers, 25 slices of pizza or 36 chocolate donuts.
So why do many of us find it so difficult to scale back on the Halloween treats? For starters, almost all classic Halloween candies are jam-packed with added sugar, making them some of the post prominent hidden sugar foods.
It’s no secret that sugar can be highly addictive. It activates the reward centers in the brain, which causes increased cravings and makes it much harder to cut out your favorite candy cold turkey. In fact, much like other “addictions,” giving up sweets can cause a slew of sugar withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, nausea and more, as you attempt to overcome your sugar addiction.
However, the amount of sugar crammed into the most popular Halloween candies isn’t the only reason you might have some difficulty slashing back on the Halloween snacks.
Some research suggests that filling up on fatty foods can have a similar impact on the pathways in the brain as sugar, causing people to eat for pleasure rather than hunger and throwing off the body’s ability to regulate hormones that affect hunger and appetite, such as ghrelin and leptin.
Check out almost any of the foods found on the top 10 best Halloween candy list and you’ll notice that almost all are pumped full of both sugar and fat. This combination is perfect for fueling cravings and overeating.
Not only that, but Halloween is a holiday that many associate with positive memories and nostalgia, which can rewire our brains to link Halloween candies to happiness and pleasure. For example, you might find yourself craving a specific type of candy because of the experiences you associate it with rather than the actual candy itself.
Fortunately, making a few smart swaps and practicing a bit of mindful eating can obliterate overeating and help you keep your candy consumption under control.
The 10 Worst Halloween Candies To Avoid
1. Skittles | Skittles are a front-runner on the list of top 10 worst Halloween candies, and for good reason. In addition to being packed full of food additives and questionable ingredients, they also contain hydrogenated oils — also known as trans fats — which can quickly crank up cholesterol levels.
2. Crunch Bars | Made up primarily of milk chocolate and crisped rice, Crunch Bars are one of the highest calorie candy bars on the market. In fact, just four of the mini fun-sized bars contain a whopping 205 calories, 23 grams of sugar and 11 grams of fat.
3. Sour Patch Kids | These sweet and sour snacks are often considered one of the worst candies for you, thanks to both their addictive flavor and high levels of acid, which can erode tooth enamel and contribute to cavity formation.
4. Candy Corn | Not only has candy corn been dubbed the worst Halloween candy of 2019 based on a survey published by CandyStore.com, but it’s also one of the worst when it comes to your health. Besides bringing little to the table apart from added sugar and calories, it’s also full of highly refined, processed and artificial ingredients, all of which you’re better off without.
5. Starburst | This fruit-flavored snack is full of some of the worst ingredients that can take a toll on your health, including an artificial food coloring known as Red 40. This dangerous dye actually contains benzidene, a carcinogenic compound that could contribute to cancer formation.
6. 3 Musketeers | Lurking in these tasty candy bars is a hearty dose of hydrogenated oils, or trans fats. In addition to clogging your arteries and contributing to heart disease, trans fats have also been linked to a higher risk of obesity, diabetes and certain types of cancer as well.
7. Snickers | Although it may be one of the most popular candy bars on the market, Snickers also rank as one of the top 20 worst Halloween candies when it comes to nutrition profile. With layers of nougat, caramel, peanuts and milk chocolate packed into each bar, Snickers are high in calories, sugar and fat, all of which can do some serious damage when it comes to both your dental health and your waistline.
8. M&Ms | Brimming with artificial food dyes and flavorings, M&Ms are a small snack that can have a big impact on health. Additionally, although fun-sized packs are available to help promote portion control, most standard sizes contain up to three ingredients in a single bag.
9. Twix | With 14 grams of fat, 28 grams of sugar and nearly 300 calories per serving, it’s no wonder Twix is considered one of the worst Halloween candies available. And unfortunately, despite popular belief, it doesn’t matter if you prefer the right or left side of the Twix bar — both are equally bad for your health.
10. Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins | No list of candy would be complete without this beloved Halloween favorite. However, this classic candy is not known for its health benefits, and seasonal shapes are actually even worse in terms of nutrition.
For instance, while a typical Reese’s cup contains around 87 calories, 8 grams of sugar and 5 grams of fat, one serving of Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins clocks in at 170 calories, 17 grams of sugar and 10 grams of fat.
Just because you’re trying to eat healthy doesn’t mean you need to give up everything on your favorite Halloween candies list. Instead, opt for healthier alternatives, and keep your portion sizes in check to enjoy the occasional indulgence without sacrificing your health.
Dark chocolate, for instance, is a good alternative to milk chocolate because it’s higher in heart-healthy antioxidants and polyphenols that can help fight free radical damage and protect against disease — and those are just some of the benefits of dark chocolate. Be sure to also swap the full-sized candy bars for miniatures to satisfy your sweet tooth without going overboard.
Lower Calorie Candy Options: Other novelty Halloween candies like Tootsie Pops, Dum Dums and Jolly Ranchers are relatively low in fat and calories and take longer to eat than other candies, which can help slow you down and prevent a binge.
Vegan Halloween Candies: Smarties, Twizzlers and Mike & Ikes are also all vegan Halloween candy options that are lower in calories than other types of candy and typically pre-packaged in smaller servings to keep your candy consumption in check and help you avoid the worst Halloween candy.
The Best Homemade Candy: Explore our ridiculously good guide to DIY Halloween candy from juice gummies to s’mores cups and almond butter cups to upgrade your holiday!