I love Halloween candy. I claim to buy it for the trick-or-treaters, but the truth is that my sweet tooth goes wild at the prospect of mass-produced candy in small packages.
When Halloween ends and there are still bags or bars of candy in the bowl near our front door, I have to look deep into my soul to decide their fate. Should I squirrel those precious candies away for future clandestine snacks or to get them out of the house as soon as possible, so I won’t eat them?
As a missionary for food label-reading, it seemed only right that I should investigate what’s in the candy I crave – and give out to the youngsters at my door on Halloween. And so I did.
5 Halloween Candy Secrets
Everything I cite below comes from the “nutrition facts” and the ingredients listed on the packages of “fun-size” servings of these candies:
- Nestlé® Crunch® Bars
- Snickers® Bars
- Reese’s® Peanut Butter Cups
- M&M’s® Milk Chocolate Candies
- M&M’s® Peanut Chocolate Candies
- Kit Kat® Wafer Bars
- Milky Way® Bars
- Almond Joy® Bars
- TWIX® Caramel Cookie Bars
- 3 Musketeers® Bars
- Serving Size -The “nutrition” information is provided for a “serving,” but that can vary from 1 bar to 4. You’ll need a forensic nutrition degree or an obsessive interest like mine to compare one candy to another. The serving size for TWIX® is 1 bar, while it is 2 bars for Snickers® and 4 for Nestlé® Crunch®. For plain M&Ms “3 bags” are a serving, while for Peanut M&Ms® the serving size is “2 packs” (not even the same lingo!)
- Food Dyes – Of the 10 candies I checked, only 2 list food dyes among their ingredients. It’s easy to guess which ones those are – M&Ms®, plain and peanut. They each list 10 different dyes.
- Calorie Count – The least caloric (per serving), a single TWIX® bar, has 80 calories, about as much as a slice of bread. The highest calorie count per serving is 220, from 3 bags of plain M&Ms® – as many calories as are in 4 large chocolate chip cookies. The US government recommends that adults consume daily no more than 160-330 “empty” calories, the range reflecting age and gender differences. That means just 1-2 “fun size” servings use up all of an adult’s daily “empty” calories. Would you give up foods such as low-fat yogurt, regular ground beef, and whole wheat crackers (all of which include empty calories) in order to eat a few pieces of candy – or would you rather break the “empty calorie” bank every time you chomp down on a Snickers® or a Kit Kat®? It’s a tough choice in my book. Of course, you could just ignore the whole issue.
- Cholesterol and Fat – Two of the candies have 0 mg of cholesterol, Almond Joy® and TWIX®, but they have 9 and 4 grams of fat respectively per serving. The good news is that none of the candies has more than 5 mg of cholesterol. The recommendations from the US government are to keep cholesterol intake for an adult under 300 mg per day and to limit fat to no more than 20-35% of daily calories.
- Preservatives – Only 1 of the 10 candies listed a preservative among its ingredients. That candy, Reese’s® Peanut Butter Cups, contains TBHQ or tertiary butylhydroquinone, a synthetic antioxidant that is used to preserve fatty or oily foods.
Even as my bowl of mass-produced candy sits by the door, I can imagine that a year may come when I will give out some other kind of treat. Before I make such a radical change however, I’ll consult with my friends with young kids. After all, I don’t want to be the grinch who stole Halloween.
And I’ll make a few changes now too, at least for my own good. I’m not going to claim that I’ll totally ignore any leftover candy or banish it from the house, but I’ll try to choose fruit or sweet and salty pumpkin seeds over a Kit Kat at least a bit more often.