Halloween Candy Roundup

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

Watch my “Halloween Candy Roundup” on KUTV’s Fresh Living – and read the details below so you know what candy to keep and enjoy this Halloween.

Video = http://kutv.com/features/fresh-living/dr-shawn-talbott-healthier-halloween

It’s that time of year – when ghosts and ghouls (and also princesses and Presidential candidates) will be roaming the streets looking for tricks and treats.

Depending on where you live and how many houses your ghouls get to, you might have an overload of candy by the end of the night. How should you handle all that sugar?

  1. Let the kids dive in on Halloween night! One night of over-indulging is not going to hurt them.
  1. The next day, while they’re recovering from their candy-coma – let them pick a few pieces of their favorites – maybe enough for 1-2 pieces each day for the next week?
  1. Donate the rest. Most local dentists accept candy donations – many even PAY $1 per pound of candy and give you a free toothbrush or discount on future dental services. Charities like the Ronald McDonald House or any homeless shelter or food pantry will be happy to accept your candy donation. If you can’t find one near you, check out Halloween Candy Buy Back (http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com), which will help you locate a participating business that will PAY your kids for their donated candy – and then ship it to American soldiers so they can enjoy a little treat while serving our country.

Here’s my Halloween Candy Roundup – to help you decide which candy to keep, which to donate, and which to avoid.

First, as a nutritionist, I need to remind everyone that while none of these choices (except one) are “healthy” – there is nothing wrong with a little occasional indulgence (emphasis on occasional). Everything in moderation – including moderation!

Think back to the “sweets” that many of our ancestors had access to – FRUIT! – which was often a rare indulgence. Even though fruit is often a concentrated source of sugar (20-30 grams in a medium to large apple), it’s also a concentrated source of vitamins and phytonutrients – and it’s difficult to over-consume fruit because of the bulk (about 5 grams of fiber in that apple).

Large Apple

Serving Size = 1 apple

Calories = 100

Carbs = 28g (5g fiber)

Fat = 0g

Protein = 1g

Candy and caramel apples are a terrific fall treat, but they’re not often what shows up in most trick-or-treat bags these days…

Even though I’m a nutritionist, and I think that soda is perhaps THE single worst food that you can ingest, I am not part of the “anti-soda” or “tax-soda” of “ban-soda” brigades. Why? Because I also think that people should be able to CHOOSE what foods they are consuming – and hopefully make the right choices for them. I’ve been known to enjoy a Coke after a long bike race, or a Pepsi in the middle of an ultramarathon, or a Dr. Pepper with my cheeseburger at the family cookout. But I’m certainly not a fan of people drinking soda on anything but a very occasional basis.

Shasta Cream Soda

Serving Size = 1 can

Calories = 150

Carbs = 37g

Fat = 0g

Protein = 0g

You’ll see that like most sodas, a single can is around 150-ish calories of pure liquid sugar (typically 30-40g). You’ll also see that many of the candy bars below are higher in total calories, and yet I’m making the case that while they’re not “healthier” – they may be “less bad” for you in certain ways. This is because of the ways in which liquid sugar (soda) is consumed (rapidly as a drink), digested (rapidly as a liquid), absorbed (rapidly from the intestine into the bloodstream), and delivered (rapidly to the pleasure centers in the brain). This “rush” of liquid sugar is different physiologically, biochemically, and psychologically – which contributes in important ways to the “metabolic” effects (obesity/diabetes) and “addictive” nature of soda.

There has been a lot of research – and a lot of opinions – on this topic – with a nice summary from Harvard’s School of Public Health HERE (https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/soft-drinks-and-disease/)

On to the candy!

*Note = the nutrition info below is based on a “serving” of the snack/mini/”fun” sizes of each candy.

Do you need just a taste of sweetness? Then go for the lower-calorie sweets like Twizzlers or Lollipops. They’re pretty much pure sugar, but because you have to chew or lick them, you consume them a lot slower. Slower sugar is “less bad” sugar.

Jolly Rancher Lollipops

Serving Size = 3 pieces

Calories = 60

Carbs = 16g

Fat = 0g

Protein = 0g


Serving Size = 4 packs

Calories = 120

Carbs = 28g

Fat = 1g

Protein = 1g

If you’re more of a chocoholic (like me), then a lollipop just won’t do it for you. One of my favorite “less-bad” indulgences is a peppermint pattie – you get a little chocolate and some nice cool sweetness at only about 140 calories.

York Peppermint Pattie

Serving Size = 1 pattie

Calories = 140

Carbs = 31g

Fat = 2.5g

Protein = <1g

A more decadent indulgence is the familiar peanut butter cup. The combination of sweet chocolate and salty creamy peanut butter is delicious – but PB cups deliver a calorie kick at 240 (which will take about 2.5 miles of jogging to burn off).

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Serving Size = 3 cups

Calories = 240

Carbs = 27g

Fat = 14g

Protein = 5g

In the “middle range” of calorie count, we have some of the old standbys – Hershey’s bars, Kit Kats, and Whoppers – all around 200 calories per serving – and a little something to satisfy different tastes whether you like your sweets to be smooth & creamy or with a little crunch.

Hershey’s Miniatures

Serving Size = 5 pieces (Hershey’s bar, Special Dark, Mr. Goodbar, Krackel)

Calories = 210

Carbs = 26g

Fat = 13g

Protein = 3g

Note – Special Dark is 45% cacao – not really enough to qualify as “healthy” dark chocolate, but at least a step in the right direction.

Kit Kat

Serving Size = 3 two-piece bars

Calories = 210

Carbs = 27g

Fat = 11g

Protein = 3g


Serving Size = 6 tubes

Calories = 190

Carbs = 31g

Fat = 7g

Protein = <1g

Hershey’s Milk Chocolate

Serving Size = 3 pieces

Calories = 190

Carbs = 23g

Fat = 12g

Protein = 3g

Some of my favorite “go-to” treats are those that combine chocolate with nuts like peanuts and almonds. Not only does the chocolate/nut combination taste great, but the nuts provide a lot of nutrition in terms of healthier fats, fiber, and protein that can slow sugar absorption. This is one of the reasons that I’m much more likely to include Peanut M&Ms and Snickers bars along with PB&J sandwiches in my race bags for running, cycling, and triathlons, than any of the “energy bars” or “gels” that you could choose from. Again, this doesn’t make Peanut M&Ms and Snickers bars “healthy” or “good” for you by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly makes them among the “less bad” (but still delicious) choices for your Halloween indulgences.

Peanut M&Ms

Serving Size =  2 packs

Calories = 180

Carbs = 21g

Fat = 10g

Protein = 3g


Serving Size = 2 bars

Calories = 160

Carbs = 21g

Fat = 8g

Protein = 3g

I hope that helps you with your decisions about which candy to indulge in this Halloween season. Thanks for reading!



Shawn M Talbott, PhD, CNS, LDN, FACSM, FAIS, FACN

Nutritional Biochemist and Author




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Best Future You – Harnessing Your Body’s Biochemistry to Achieve Balance in Body, Mind, and Spirit

The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance, and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Killer at Large – Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat – an award-winning documentary film exploring the causes and solutions underlying the American obesity epidemic

The Cortisol Connection – Why Stress Makes You Fat and Ruins Your Health (Hunter House)

The Cortisol Connection Diet – The Breakthrough Program to Control Stress and Lose Weight (Hunter House)

Cortisol Control and the Beauty Connection – The All-Natural Inside-Out Approach to Reversing Wrinkles, Preventing Acne, And Improving Skin Tone (Hunter House)

Natural Solutions for Pain-Free Living – Lasting Relief for Flexible Joints, Strong Bones and Ache-Free Muscles (Chronicle Publishers – Currant Books)

The Immune Miracle – The All-Natural Approach for Better Health, Increased Energy and Improved Mood (GLH Nutrition, 2012)

The Health Professionals Guide to Dietary Supplements (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkens)

A Guide to Understanding Dietary Supplements – an Outstanding Academic Text of 2004 (Haworth Press)

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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