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Tricks for Halloween treats

Written By: Andi Atkinson, UT Physicians | Updated: October 17, 2022
Woman gives treats to a group of trick-or-treaters

You don't need to give away high-sugar candies to be popular with the Halloween crowd.

Tish J. Wright
Tish J. Wright, RD, CDES

What would Halloween be without the treats! Most kids — and adults — love the free candy, but too much of it can be a nutritional and dental nightmare!

So how do you keep Halloween sweet and quasi-healthy? Tish J. Wright, RD, CDCES, registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist at UT Physicians Multispecialty – Bayshore, offers some smart tricks for Halloween treats!

Think outside the candy

“Not everything you give away at Halloween needs to be candy. There are other foods that kids like, and they contain less processed sugars and calories,” she said.

Consider giving out healthier snacks, such as pretzels, yogurt-covered pretzels, cheddar crackers, raisins, or popcorn.

“You can buy boxes of individually-packaged pretzels, cheddar crackers, raisins, and even chocolate-covered raisins or nuts,” she said. “You can put lightly salted and buttered popcorn in bags, and you can even make a party mix with it. Just add pretzels, chocolate cereal, and a little candy corn and you have a healthier treat that’s sweet and salty.”

Also, gather an assortment of fruit to create edible Halloween creatures that can be served at parties.

“Fruit is always fun, and there are lots of easy, creative ways to serve them up if you search on the internet,” she said.

Limit candy carbs to 9 grams

“If you’d like to give candy, consider buying candies with 9 grams of carbohydrates or less. Buy the smallest-sized candies because it doesn’t take a whole lot to overload on sugar, carbohydrates, and empty calories,” Wright said. “Try buying low-carbohydrate candy not just for Halloween but for birthday parties as well.”

According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) “Halloween Candy Carbohydrate Counts” quick reference guide, the following brand candies contain 9 grams of carbohydrates or less*:
– Bit-O-Honey (1 piece = 6 grams)
– Bottle Caps (1 fun size = 7 grams)
– Bubble Yum (1 piece = 6 grams)
– Charleston Chew (1 piece = 9 grams)
– Dum-Dums (1 pop = 6 grams)
– Jolly Ranchers (1 piece = 6 grams)
– Juicy Fruits (1 small box = 9 grams)
– Laffy Taffy (1 piece = 7 grams)
– Milk Duds (1 mini box = 9 grams)
– Mr. Goodbar (1 fun size bar = 4 grams)
– Nerds (1 small box = 9 grams)
– NutRageous (1 fun size bar = 9 grams)
– Reese’s Sticks (1 package = 9 grams)
– Rice Krispies Treats (1 treat = 9 grams)
– Smarties (1 roll = 8 grams)
– Special Dark (1 small bar = 5 grams)
– Twizzler (1 small stick = 9 grams)
– Wonka Pixie Stick (1 stick = 2 grams)

*The products are listed based on factual carbohydrate count and not endorsed by the dietician or JDRF.

Focus on fun, not gobbling

“For Halloween, I think we should remember to play games with our food,” Wright said. “This shifts the focus to playing and laughing instead of just eating.”

She recommends sensory games.

“As children, we were blindfolded and asked to put our hands in a bowl full of peeled grapes —and we were told we were touching eyeballs! All of these types of games were fun, and we didn’t need a bunch of candy or junk food to enjoy ourselves,” she said.

Don’t eat everything at once

“Candy isn’t off limits if it’s eaten in moderation. With Halloween, it’s really about the quantity more than anything else,” the dietitian said. “When you have a pillowcase full of candy, it’s important to spread it out over months. Too much at once may give you a ‘sugar crash,’ make you feel sick, or both.”

So no one eats too many sweets (and gains unwanted pounds), take some of it to work and share the bounty with co-workers. Store the rest in the refrigerator and limit the candy to a piece a day.

Please remember, not all snacks and candies — even the healthier types — are suitable for infants, toddlers, and young children. Speak to your pediatrician to find out which foods may present a choking hazard or allergic reaction. Parents should always inspect all Halloween loot before allowing their children to eat it.

Have a safe Halloween!

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.