With Halloween comes excitement, creativity, a sense of community…and sugar. This candy-centric holiday aside, we’re already apparently swimming in sugar: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, sugar consumption in the United States increased by nearly 40% between 1950 and 2000. Health professionals are asking us to drastically reduce our intake in light of the obesity epidemic, with the latest guidelines from the World Health Organization suggesting that adults eat less than 25 grams of sugar each day. To put this in context, there may be over 30 grams of sugar in just one typical 20-ounce sports drink.
That said, we recognize the cultural reality that Halloween brings—and, of course, are firm believers in fun, too. So how should we balance the need to have fun and eat as healthy as possible during this time of year? It’s a good idea to check with your doctor on your individual dietary decisions, but there are a few things you may want to keep in mind when shopping for candy.
First, take a moment to compare the sugar content on ingredient labels because you’ll find some candy contains far less than others. Also, unfortunately, sugar isn’t the only ingredient to consider when you shop. Here is a bit more information to keep in mind before choosing what to eat—or give away to all of those little ghosts and goblins.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved six artificial sweeteners for consumption, including advantame, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, sucralose and acesulfame potassium. New science is raising concerns that artificial sweeteners may interfere with the body’s ability to regulate glucose, an important factor in weight gain and obesity. Artificial sweeteners may also create an increased tolerance for sweetness (since they are highly concentrated and much sweeter than traditional table sugar).
The jury is still out on this plant-based sweetener. The debate lies in the difference between whole leaf stevia and stevia extract, which is highly refined. Stevia extract, most commonly found in processed foods and sweeteners, goes through an intensive manufacturing process and may contain extra additives and ingredients.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS):
Derived from corn and then put through an intensive chemical manufacturing process, HFCS is common in drinks and packaged foods. In 2010, researchers at Princeton University found that HFCS may actually lead to metabolic syndrome and weight gain. Consumer advocates are also concerned about the widespread use of genetically modified corn to create HFCS. However, the Mayo Clinic considers HFCS to be “chemically similar” to sugar and simply recommends, regardless of the type, decreasing sugar consumption.
Food dyes and artificial colors:
A growing body of science suggests that ingesting food dyes is linked to hyperactivity and aggressive behavior in children. Several food dyes and artificial colors that were approved by the FDA under the 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act have been voluntarily banned in other countries, such as the United Kingdom.
Check out these popular brands for Halloween, known as organic and/or for reducing their artificial ingredients: