Even if you don't go trick-or-treating, it's hard to avoid Halloween candy this time of year.
For those of us who aim to eat healthfully, there are three basic approaches to candy, Halloween candy in particular:
You can abstain, which is easier said than done. You can carefully select treats that you can justify, choosing candies that are, say, lower in fat or calories than others, or take longer to eat. Or you can decide to enthusiastically indulge in what will truly satisfy your craving for candy, but do so in moderation and know when to quit.
If I were going to indulge, I'd probably choose a chocolate-rich candy bar or two, taking time to enjoy every morsel and making sure to accommodate the extra calories by cutting back elsewhere in my diet that day. To me, then, finding the candy that delivers the biggest chocolate punch (those whose ingredients list chocolate first) would be key.
But you might prefer to keep a sweet taste in your mouth for as much of the day as possible. If that's the case, nonchocolate treats, particularly chews and pops that last longer, would work better. Those candies typically list some form of sugar first; they also are usually lower in calories (and saturated fat), so you can allow yourself more of them throughout the day.
I've scoured a lot of candy packages lately, and I highly recommend you read the nutrition facts and ingredient lists for the candies you choose. Here's a guide to help you sort out your options.
You can eat one two-piece snack size Kit Kat bar for 70 calories, 30 of them from fat. Or you could choose a Reese's peanut-butter cup for 110 calories, 50 of them from fat. I'd take the Reese's cup, because its first ingredient is milk chocolate and its second is peanuts (before sugar, dextrose, salt and preservatives). Kit Kat's ingredient list starts with sugar, then wheat flour.
The first ingredient in a Baby Ruth bar is sugar, then roasted peanuts, then corn syrup. The bars also contain hydrogenated palm kernel and coconut oil; these count as trans fats, which are bad for your cardiovascular system. Ingredient No. 7 is cocoa, right after high-fructose corn syrup. A Snickers bar lists milk chocolate as its first ingredient and peanuts second. Next on the list is corn syrup, followed by sugar. Because ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, if I'm in the mood for chocolate, I'd rather see it listed first than seventh. For me, a Snickers bar is the most satisfying of mainstream candies, so why waste calories on anything less?
Some chocolate-coated candies are low in fat. A serving of Raisinets has about 63 calories and about 23 from fat, which the package represents as "30 percent less fat than the leading chocolate brands."
Nonchocolate treats are mostly gobs of sugar. But they're generally lower in fat and calories than chocolate-centric items. A 14-gram serving of strawberry Twizzlers has 43 calories, only about 3 of them from fat. The ingredient list starts with corn syrup, enriched wheat flour and sugar. Starburst (15 grams has 60 calories, around 11 from fat) and Skittles (about 15 grams has 60 calories, about 7 from fat) are not only lower in fat, but each is fortified with Vitamin C. Those servings each deliver just over 10 percent of your daily value for that nutrient.
I used to love candy corn so much, I could eat it by the fistful. Now the sight of it hurts my teeth. If you're a fan, buy it in trick-or-treat-ready packages for portion control: A 15-gram pouch has about 50 calories and no fat. Of course, it's nothing but sugar and salt.
My top choice among the low-fat options? The Tootsie Pop, hands down. A single pop has 60 calories and no fat. Sure, it's the same mix of sugar, corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oil you see elsewhere. But it takes a long time to eat (unless you're one of those people who bites through to the filling), and there's that rewarding Tootsie Roll treat at the end.