Thursday, November 1, 2007
What is “Eating Healthy” After Halloween?
Oh, man. It’s that time of year. Now that Halloween is in the bag and kids have brought home all this candy I’m getting a lot of queries about how many calories are in that Fun Sized 3 Musketeers or packet of Skittles. About 50% of the search traffic to candy blog includes the phrase “calories in.” (I’m not kidding!)
It’s great to be calorie conscious, especially when you’re being adventurous and trying some new candy from the Trick-or-Treat bag. You don’t want to over do it, and lets face it, some items are surprisingly “affordable” when it comes to calories (like gummis, marshmallows or SweeTarts).
But then there are the articles and pieces on the morning talk shows. “Healthy Choices” in Halloween candy. And they’ve all got it wrong. They keep talking about caloric density as if it’s low calories that makes a piece of candy healthier? I’m sorry, if there’s one thing worse than a chunk of sweetened partially hydrogenated oils it’s a hunk of pure sugar! (One show said that a 3 Musketeers is a healthier choice than a Snickers Bar ... I suppose if the goal is to have as many empty wrappers for the same caloric cost. The Snickers will be more satisfying as it has a blend of sugars, fat and protein. The 3 Musketeers is mostly sugar and as many folks know, that just leads to a later crash.)
So, yes, you can have a pile of SweeTarts, which have zero nutritional value (no vitamins, no minerals, no essential fatty acids) but hey, no fat! The caloric density (which I’ve added to all reviews here whenever possible) of SweeTarts is 98 calories per ounce. But what have you eaten? Absolutely nothing of value.
Then you sit aghast that the little packet of Peanut M&Ms has 80 calories ... that adds up to 142 calories per ounce. Whoa! That’s almost 50% more! But there’s stuff you actually want in Peanut M&Ms ... things like protein, calcium, traces of iron, even some fiber! And fat, yeah, there’s fat in there from the peanuts and the chocolate. Peanuts have omega 3 fatty acids in them. Stearic acid in chocolate has been shown to be cholesterol neutral and may be beneficial to other inflammatory markers. Is it health food? No ... but it’s not the demon that these morning talk show people make it out to be in moderation. And those little packets, they’re great for portion control!
If you’re going to eat something, if you’re going to set aside your calories, please, for the love of all that’s good and tasty, eat something you like.
Let’s drop the pretension that low calorie makes something healthy. Nutrition makes things healthy and your diet should be balanced. There’s nothing wrong with a pile of peanuts, raisins or some crisped rice with some chocolate thrown in. (Honestly, I think a box of Goobers is more nutritious than a cupcake, but I’m not a registered dietitian.) If I had to be stranded on an island with one candy as my only sustenance for the rest of my life it would not be any of the “healthier” choices devoid of nutrition. I’d probably pick chocolate covered almonds.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.