Tips for a Healthier Halloween

Tips for a Healthier Halloween

by Jenny Cutler

Besides Halloween traditions, this time of year can also be scary for someone who is trying to make healthy, sensible food choices. We all should enjoy a treat every now and then; why not enjoy a little sweetness by indulging in some of these healthier Halloween goodies?! Hold up, wait a minute! A dietitian talking about candy? Say it isn't so! This isn’t another article about how you can swap out Halloween goodies for a piece of fruit or how to totally avoid the candy bowl. My approach is realistic; we are going to have temptations, whether it’s Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or just any normal day of the week. I want you to be able to enjoy these treats, but at the same time, learn moderation and consider other healthier alternatives that might be available on the shelves!

Candy

Let’s dig into that candy bowl and unwrap some of the most popular go-to Halloween treats that could be considered a “healthier” choice, as well as discuss ways to make them a little less spooky!
 

  • Candy Bars— When it comes to candy bars, not all bars are created equal. That goes for flavor and nutrition content as well. First, consider the mini or fun-size version of these to get your portion in check. Keep in mind though, once you start, it may be hard to stop! Here’s a quick breakdown with healthier alternatives tossed in for the more popular candy bars:

    • Two mini Peanut Butter Cups pack about 88 calories and 5gm of fat. Sticking to that portion would be a way to go, but an alternative could be to try an Organic version of these pea-nutty treats – brands like Justin’s carries a mini Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter cup that’s so tasty it’s scary!

    • Snickers have peanuts so they must be loaded with protein, right? Well, not exactly. While these might be one of the more popular candy bars, they only carry less than 1gm protein in the mini-version so you’re not gaining much from those peanuts. They also are loaded with calories and sugar from all that caramel and nougat. A quick swap to consider would be mini 3 Musketeers bars as these are the lowest in calories and fat compared to most candy bars. Try to stick with just 2 minis though, as the sugar will start to add up with these little guys!

    • M&Ms might melt in your mouth, but that doesn’t take away the fact that these can be hard to stop at just one handful! Again, mini-size packs will help to prevent over-indulging, but is there a better choice between plain, peanut, pretzel, peanut butter, and all the fun new flavors? Not really. While you might get a little protein and fiber from the peanut versions, you aren’t coming out too much farther ahead than the other options. Best advice is to stick with no more than 2 packs of the mini-size and choose the flavor you most enjoy.

  • Gummies— No matter if these are gummy worms, bears, bats, or pumpkins these little creatures can rack up your sugar intake in no time! Again, we want to try to limit our portions by choosing any fun or mini-size available for these, but better yet, there are several Organic brands lining the shelves like YumEarth which will lessen your intake of artificial flavors or coloring.

    • Twizzlers can fall into this category of gummy-like treats. 2 pieces carry less than 100 calories and zero fat which won’t be a total set back to your day. However, these are still a source of added sugar in your diet, so keep your portions in check!

  • Dark Chocolate— I’m sure it’s no secret that dark chocolate not only tastes delicious, but also carries some antioxidant benefits. Treat yourself to 2 bite-size pieces of Special Dark Chocolate for about 80 calories and 5gm of fat.

  • Candy Corn— love it or hate it, these little nibbles are a Halloween staple. They are loaded with sugar and many brands are packed with artificial ingredients. A healthier alternative would be to try naturally-sweetened kinds that don’t have all that artificial yuck thrown in, like Brach’s. Keep an eye out for “made with real honey” on the label.

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Salty snacks

Pretzels, popcorn, chex-mix, oh my! These salty-goodies are likely being mixed into your Halloween parties in one way or another and so here are some healthier options to consider when indulging in these crunchy snacks.
 

  • Popcorn is often an addition to many Halloween snack mixes and can be a healthy snack. Of course, the most important thing to remember with popcorn is that we want to avoid the overly salted and buttery movie-pop versions and adding more butter and salt. Consider some of the pre-popped options, like Boom Chicka Pop, to toss into your favorite snack mix recipe. This particular brand has simple ingredients, is whole grain, and low in calories, fat, and sodium. These are also sold in snack-size bags to pass out to trick-or-treaters!

  • Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies snack pouches is a goodie to toss into your Halloween bowl as a salty grab‘n’go for you or the kids. With these being individually packed, you can enjoy a pouch without the added guilt.

  • Pretzel treat bags, like Utz brands, are also individually packaged and could be a low calorie, low fat portion-controlled option to satisfy any salty craving. 

All tricks aside, these treats (and many others) can really put a damper on things when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle regimen. Whatever your go-to Halloween treat may be, keep moderation in mind and it will go a long way to keep these goodies from giving your health a fright!

Want to make your own snack? Here's the recipe for Smokey BBQ Spiced Pumpkin Seeds at only 81 calories per serving!

Jenny Cutler is a registered dietitian at Mettler Center. Have a nutrition question? Ask the Expert or schedule a FREE 15-minute Meet the RD online or by calling (217) 356-6543.

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