By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
Halloween means sweet treats, candy baskets, loads of sugar and artificial ingredients; so, as you’re filling your Halloween basket this year we want to share some healthier swaps for frequently used unhealthy ingredients.
It’s important to remember that while there are plenty of unhealthy ingredients, there are also a wide variety of healthier ingredients (including some that are non-GMO, organic and naturally-sourced) that manufacturers are beginning to use that you should seek out when planning the treats you’ll be giving out and eating this Halloween.
Here are 3 ingredients to avoid, and what you should look for instead:
A frequent offender in most commercially processed candies and can even be found in places like the bread you eat. Besides being a very processed and concentrated source of sugar, HFCS often contains mercury, which usually goes unregulated and unchecked by the FDA. Mercury in excess can cause detrimental effects to the nervous system, and for children may be deleterious to brain and nervous system growth and regular development. In short, try to steer clear of it.
Healthier Swap: Cane sugar/tapioca syrup, concentrated fruit juice or maple syrup. Although still sugar, these are less processed and certainly less genetically modified (GMO) for the most part than either corn syrup or HFCS. Additionally, try to seek out candies that do not have sugar as the main ingredient- remember that the first ingredient on the label means that there is the most of that ingredient in the product.
Healthier Swap: Natural Coloring & Dyes. Look for candies that use all natural dyes- “organic black carrot juice concentrate”, “organic turmeric”, “organic annatto”– all are healthier swaps over those that are artificially processed and chemically-created.
Partially Hydrogenated Oils: You might be shocked, but this basically translates to trans fats; didn’t you think that trans fats had to be labeled? Think again, they may not always be labeled. Partially hydrogenated oils appear in more foods than you might realize, including processed nut butters and certainly lots of candies. During the hydrogenation process, the chemical makeup of the substance is changed, which makes it much more difficult, or even impossible for your body to break down and get rid of. This is another ingredient to steer far away from. Note that on the candy label you might find partially hydrogenated vegetable, soybean, palm or other oils, they all mean the same thing.
Healthier Swap: Companies that more consciously source and make their candies will use non-hydrogenated oils like coconut, cocoa butter, peanut oil, sunflower oil or lastly palm oil. Although in excess palm oil isn’t as healthful due to higher saturated fat content, try to seek it out over any type of hydrogenated oils.
More Healthy Halloween Basket Tips