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Halloween candy: witch are better.

Halloween Candy: Witch Are Better

Trick or treat. Smell my feet. Give me something good to eat. If you don't, I don't care. I'll pull down your underwear.

That's the chant six-year-old Rachel Corcoran will use this October 31, as she goes door-to-door in the Maryland suburbs disguised as (what else?) a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtlee. If Rachel has a good night, she'll lug home a jack-o'-lantern filled with a pound or two of Kisses, Blow Pops, and other "good" foods.

Even the most health-conscious parents let their kids go trick-or-treating. Who has the heart to stop them? What's more important is that candy--or candied breakfast cereals, soft drinks, and other sugary foods--not be part of their daily diets.

We set out to find which candies will inflict the least damage on youngsters this Halloween (and on adults who occasionally do a bit of trick-or-treating at the check-out counter or vending machine). We looked at more than 150 popular sweets. What we saw wasn't pretty.

With only two exceptions (granola bars and one fruit snack), fat and added sugar account for 80 to 100 percent of most candies' calories. Those that have more sugar (hard candies) have less fat, and those that have less sugar (chocolate bars) have more fat. But the total remains about the same.

Rating candies based on their fat and sugar content raises a problem. Most companies refused to tell us how much sugar their products contain. So we had to base most of our judgments on fat alone. That's reasonable, since fat is probably worse for most people. Just remember: sugar is no health food. It can cause tooth decay and replace more nutritious foods in your diet. But at least it has fewer calories than fat and it won't clog your arteries.


Four-and-a-half teaspoons of grease probably isn't your idea of a terrific snack. But that's just what you get when you eat a two-ounce Mr. Goodbar.

Chocolate is fatty. In fact, most chocolate candies and bars get about half their calories from fat--much of it the artery-clogging saturated kind. So why don't we think of chocolates as greasy? Probably because most of the rest of their calories come from sugar. (Maybe calling them "fats" rather than "sweets" would help.)

The fattiest chocolate bars are the ones with nuts or peanut butter. Nestles Alpine White with Almonds, Peanut Butter Snickers, and PB Max all get around 60 percent of their calories from fat. The nuts--and the milk from the milk chocolate--add a little calcium, niacin, riboflavin, and protein, but it's a poor trade-off.

The lowest-fat chocolates are filled with mint-flavored sugar or marshmallow. Peppermint Patties and Junior Mints get about 25 percent of their calories from fat. Pom Poms (which are made with caramel) and Raisinets are almost as low, but they're notorious teeth-stickers.

And don't assume that candy made with (low-fat) carob is more virtuous than ordinary chocolate. Sweets Divine's No How, a carob-coated peanut bar, gets 62 percent of its calories from fat.


The oats in granola bars replace some of the junk found in other candies, which makes the granolas a bit more nutritious.

Yet sugar-plus-fat still accounts for 50 to 80 percent of their calories (versus 80 to 90 percent for most chocolate bars). That makes granola bars more "health-food candy" than "healthy." But given the alternatives, you're better off with them.

Just don't expect a lot of fiber. Neither granola nor most granola bars have much. The average bar has one or two grams of fiber--about what you'd find in a Snickers. A 3/4-cup serving of kidney beans has 14 grams.

If you want fiber, stick to one of three Health Valley Oat Bran Bars--Fruit & Nut (8-1/2 grams of fiber), Almond & Date (7 g), or Raisin & Cinnamon (6 g).


Most candy starts out as a sugar-water syrup. What you end up with depends on how hot the syrup gets and what ingredients are added as it cools.

Check the chart for candies that are made with little or no fat. Harder candies like Life-Savers and lollipops are better than stick-to-the-teeth licorices, taffies, or caramels, which are Cavity City.


Gummi Bears--those chewy little critters made of sugar, artificial colors, and flavors--are candy. No doubt about it Well, so are Fruit Roll Ups, Fruit Wrinkles, and Fun Fruits. It's just that most people don't know it, perhaps because many labels say "made with real fruit."

Most fruit snacks do contain a little fruit or juice, but that's not saying much. Sunkist Fun Fruits, for example, have fruit as their first ingredient. Yet a one-ounce pouch of candy contains the equivalent of just one-seventeenth of an orange.

The exception is Nature's Choice Real Fruit Bars, which are 100-percent fruit. But, like any fruit snack, they get stuck between your teeth and breed cavities.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Center for Science in the Public Interest
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Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Schmidt, Stephen
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Oct 1, 1990
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