As Halloween nears, supermarket and department store aisles are lined with adorable costumes, boxes of treats that are perfectly sized for little trick-or-treaters, and frenzied parents scrambling to get the most popular products. If your house is already decorated with skeletons and cobwebs and you’ve spent months planning a costume that will impress the trick or treaters who stop at your door, then you’re probably keen to get the most coveted treats for the neighborhood kids.
The Halloween candy parents love giving (and kids love getting) are so convenient – wrapped in snack sized (or ‘fun’ sized) packages and sold in enormous boxes for a great price – that you might not think twice about what you’re spreading around the neighborhood. Miniature bags of Doritos, potato chips, gummy worms, Twizzlers… they’re so tiny, they must be harmless, right?
The vast majority of Halloween treats are mainly made of tooth-decaying, obesity-causing sugar and provide no nutritional value except for (empty) calories. Sure, a mini-sized candy bar won’t do much damage, but the other ingredients hiding in the package – artificial colors and flavors, chemical preservatives, trans fats and others – might. If you’re a conscientious parent concerned about your child’s diet, it’s safe to say that other parents in your neighborhood are just as interested in what their child brings home on Halloween night.
Unfortunately, small packages are exempt from listing ingredients, so unless you do your research or call the manufacturer (small packages must list a telephone number), you may not even know what scary chemicals lurk in your children’s treat bags. This is especially troublesome for children with food allergies, ADD/ADHD and autism.
The ingredients may not be listed on the individually-wrapped packages, but they are listed on the box. Before buying a mega-box of Halloween treats, take a look at the ingredients. You might be astonished to find some of the most frightening ingredients in the most popular products. For example, dreaded trans fats (listed as partially hydrogenated fat on the label) are found in Ritz crackers. The notorious flavor enhancer, monosodium glutamate (MSG) is one of many, many artificial ingredients in Doritos; and M&Ms are brimming with artificial colors, chemicals suspected to be a reason for hyperactive behavior in children.
Read the ingredients on a few more boxes, however, and you’ll find that not all products contain unsavory ingredients. Many products have ‘clean’ labels – meaning, they’re free of artificial colors, flavors, and chemical preservatives. You just have to know what you’re looking for. Here’s a guideline to help you pick the healthiest Halloween treats.
Flavored potato chips and corn chips, including Doritos and Cheetos, often include a host of artificial flavors, many of which include free glutamic acid, a component of MSG and the culprit behind many of the symptoms MSG is known to cause.
Instead, choose plain chips with the simple ingredients, ‘potatoes, vegetable oil, and salt.’ They are fried, but they won’t send your kids into a tailspin.
Colorful candy, from orange-and-black Halloween candy to Twizzlers and Skittles, is chock-full of artificial colors, most of them coal-tar derivatives and all of them implicated in causing changes to behavior or health.
Surf Sweets make lollipops and gummy candies which are free of artificial colors and flavors, trans fats, GMOs, and corn syrup. Certified organic, they provide 100 percent Vitamin C per serving and taste amazing. You can buy them online, as well as in many local stores. Swap the artificially-colored candy your child brings home with this Naturally Savvy Approved choice!Read more about the dangers of Halloween candy
Chocolate Candy Bars
The hands-down favorite candy that kids will dig through their treat bags to find is a chocolate bar. Luckily many candy bars are not as bad as you might think. Some are horrible – Snickers contains trans fats and M&Ms contain a variety of artificial colors, but most chocolate bars, especially plain chocolate bars, don’t contain the scary stuff (unless you’re afraid of fat, that is).
Of course, you can always opt to give out boxes of raisins, granola bars, and trail mix, but your house might not be so popular next Halloween. Not all treats have to be edible. Stop by your local party shop or dollar store to stock up on knick-knacks kids can play with – stickers, markers, crayons, glow stick bracelets, and trading cards.
Last word of advice: Halloween treats are best enjoyed early in the day – not before bed, and preferably not on a school day. Happy (and safe) trick or treating!
Image: Carol Browne