We’re going to start off by saying no candy is truly healthy. Sorry. But that doesn’t mean you have to forgo a sweet treat in the name of health this Halloween. Important side note: a fun-size candy bar isn’t going to throw your training or weight-loss efforts off track. So if you’re really craving your favourite treat, go for it.
That said, there are better-for-you candy options, especially if you’re going to indulge in a few pieces. Follow these tips to look for the perfect, healthy-ish treat.
Don’t Avoid Fat, But Choose the Right Kind
If we’re being honest, this rule can really be applied across all of your nutrition decisions. Fat, at least the right kinds of fat—unsaturated—is a crucial nutrient that plays many important roles in bodily functions. Plus, it tastes good and helps you feel full, which means you’ll eat less later on.
When it comes to candy, most of the fat is not going to be unsaturated, unless it’s peanut-based. But when you choose a candy that’s low-fat or fat-free—Skittles, Candy Corn, Starbursts—you’re getting trans fat and lots of highly processed sugar that may cause you to crash later.
A fun-size pack of Skittles, for example, has 60 calories and 14 grams of sugar. Its ingredients? Sugar, corn syrup, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, artificial flavours, dyes, and wax. That hydrogenated palm kernel oil is trans fat, the worst kind of fat you can have.
And when you go fat-free, like Candy Corn, you’re just getting processed sugar and artificial ingredients.
Choosing a Snickers bar or a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup, however, might mean more fat and calories, but it will fill you up and even provide you with some unsaturated fats thanks to the peanuts.
Chocolate, that is. You may have heard that dark chocolate can provide health benefits, including improved endurance and decreased inflammation. That’s true, but only if your chocolate is at least 70 percent cacao. Pro tip: If a candy bar is labelled as “dark chocolate,” but the first ingredient is sugar, not chocolate, it’s not really dark chocolate.
A popular Halloween treat is Hershey’s Dark Chocolate, but it clocks in at just 45 percent cacao and its first ingredient is sugar.
You may have to go outside your standard Halloween bags of candy to get a good dark chocolate, or you can treat yourself to a small piece or two of “dark” chocolate or milk chocolate, and we won’t tell.
Indulge After a Workout
Timing is everything. After a run, ride, or swim, your body needs calories—especially sugar—to refuel. Simple sugars found in most Halloween candies will restock your muscle’s glycogen stores and get you ready for the next workout.
Candies with protein—hey, again, Reese’s and Snickers—can also help your muscles recover.
But candy shouldn’t be all you refuel with. Your body needs nutrient-packed foods that are high in quality carbohydrates and protein, like eggs, a banana and peanut butter, or Greek yogurt.
Watch Your Portions
We know. That bowl of fun-size candy is just screaming your name, and it’s just a few small pieces! But those small pieces can add up: One fun-size Snickers, for example, has 80 calories and 3.5 grams of fat. Let’s say you have four, for 320 calories. That’s nearly 100 calories more than one regular-size Snickers bar—250 calories.
Take a piece or two of your favourite candy—enjoy it!—and then step away from the bag or bowl.