Best Candy for Halloween (Plus Tips to Manage Your Blood Sugar)
To reduce glucose spikes from your favorite Halloween candy, eat balanced meals throughout the day and join in with trick-or-treaters for some walking.
As ghosts, goblins, and witches take over the streets this year, you may find yourself more spooked by the enormous amounts of candy piling up in your house than those walking around in costumes.
Candy is high in added sugar and we know that added sugar can make it harder to lose or maintain weight. But what does it mean for your blood sugar? And more, your metabolic health?
In this article, we will review how sugar affects your health, how much sugar is really in Halloween candy, the best candy for balanced glucose levels, and tricks to manage candy consumption.
How Does Sugar Affect Your Health?
A little candy (or sugar consumption) from time to time likely won’t cause any significant effects. But excess sugar over a long period has been linked to weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and tooth decay.¹,²
The American Heart Association recommends the following for added sugars:
- No more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of added sugar per day for men
- No more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) per day for women
But the average American consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugar a day, almost 3 times the recommended amount for women.³ Want to know something even more spooky? The USDA reports that the average trick-or-treater consumes nearly 3 cups of sugar in one night!
Because sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrates, it’s easily digested and absorbed into the bloodstream. This leads to a rapid increase in glucose levels (aka glucose spike). A spike signals the pancreas to release insulin, a hormone responsible for pulling glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells for energy.
If you aren’t using the energy right away, it gets stored in the liver or muscles for later use. But if those stores are full, it’s then stored as adipose tissue (aka fat).
As candy bowls start popping up around your office, at stores, and in your own home, you may be wondering if you can enjoy your favorite treats without putting your health at risk. The answer is yes, you can! First, let’s take a look at how much sugar is really in candy.
How Much Sugar is in Halloween Candy?
We know that candy is loaded with sugar. But are there some options that have less sugar than others? (hint: size does matter).
Here is how much sugar is in some of the most popular fun-sized candies:
- A Snickers bar contains about 8 grams or 1.5 teaspoons of sugar
- A box of Nerds has 11 grams or 2.25 teaspoons of sugar
- Skittles contains 11 grams or 2.25 teaspoons of sugar
- Almond Joy bars have 12 grams or 2.5 teaspoons of sugar
- One mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup has about 4.6 grams or just under 1 teaspoon of sugar
- One mini Milk Chocolate Hershey bar has about 3.75 grams or ⅔ teaspoon of sugar
- A single Twix Mini has 5 grams or 1 teaspoon of sugar
- A Kit Kat Miniature has 4.25 grams of sugar or a little under 1 teaspoon
- One M&M package has 8.5 grams or 1.75 teaspoons of sugar
These teeny tiny, bite-sized candies pack a very sugary punch. Just one can account for almost half of the recommended daily intake.
What About Sugar-Free Candy?
Sugar-free candy options are everywhere and are popular among those who follow a keto or low-carb diet. But are they really any better than the real stuff?
Any food labeled “sugar-free” will have an artificial sweetener or sugar alternative to make it sweet. Sugar alternatives are one way to minimize sugar intake, while still satisfying your sweet tooth. Because they have a glycemic index (GI) of 0, they are less likely to cause a blood sugar spike compared to table sugar (GI of 65).
While there are 8 sugar substitutes approved by the FDA, research shows that they may not be that much healthier than sugar. Studies found that some artificial sweeteners can cause weight gain, gut dysbiosis, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, headaches, and depression.⁴⁻⁸ Even though it would likely take pretty large doses of sugar substitutes over time, it’s best to keep these to a minimum.
If you want to choose a sugar-free candy option, try to look for one that uses allulose, monk fruit, or stevia, as they have less impact on the gut microbiome and are less likely to have a long-term effect on your health.
What Candy Can I Eat?
Don’t be too spooked. There are plenty of candy options (regular and sugar-free) that you can enjoy and are a little less spikey.
Signos Dietitian Alyssa Willson, MS, RDN recommends sticking with candy that isn’t just sugar. “Try to opt for things like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers Bars, or Peanut M&M’s. The higher fat and protein content from nuts and nut butter will help slow the digestion of sugar and can help lower a spike.”
Candies like Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, and Nerds are pure sugar and water (plus artificial colorings), so they are more likely to lead to a faster and higher spike.
“When buying for your home, or to give out to trick-or-treaters, you can get healthier brands instead of traditional ones,” she said. Brands like Unreal, Justin’s, and Wholesome tend to have fewer added sugars, artificial colorings, and preservatives, so they are a little healthier.
Best Practices for Halloween
Halloween only comes once a year and it’s a fun night (or weekend) that everyone should enjoy. Here are some best practices to keep in mind to help manage your blood sugar response:
- Mixed candy options (think nuts and nut butters) can be less spikey.
- Don’t skip meals during the day. Skipping meals can cause dips in blood sugar, which can lead to more cravings later and likely result in eating more candy than you planned.
- Eat candy mindfully. When you deprive yourself of candy, you’re more likely to binge on it later. Instead, allow yourself to slow down and actually enjoy it! Plus, you’re less likely to have a high spike.
- Moderation is key! Fun-sized portions can help you track and manage how much you’ve eaten.
- If you do have more candy than you wanted to, let it go and refocus the next day. You may see elevated readings overnight and a higher fasted level, but that’s ok when it happens on occasion!
- Check out the neighborhood to see everyone’s costumes and decorations. Walking can help minimize a spike.
- Drink lots of water!
- Focus on other aspects of Halloween. There are pumpkin patches to visit, pumpkins to carve, and haunted houses to see. It doesn’t need to be about candy!
Monitor Your Glucose with Signos
Blood glucose can have a significant impact on how you feel. Too much sugar in one night can give you a sugar hangover and can leave you feeling lethargic, shaky, and even anxious the next day.
A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) paired with the Signos app can help you see how your body responds to the different types of candy you eat in real-time, and give you suggestions on how to blunt a spike. Your CGM can help you make informed choices about what you eat to help keep your blood sugars stable so you can reach your health goals while still enjoying a piece of candy (or two).