Dr Shawn Talbott: Healthier Halloween

Dr. Shawn Talbott.png
Dr. Shawn Talbott.png

(KUTV) Dr Shawn Talbott visited Fresh Living with tips for a Healthier Halloween.

Talbott is a nutritional biochemist and author of 13 books on natural health and fitness.

Halloween Candy Roundup

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? Let the kids dive in on Halloween night! One night of over-indulging is not going to hurt them. 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? 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 - which 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

Twizzlers Serving Size = 4 packs Calories = 120 Carbs = 28g Fat = 1g Protein = 1g

York Peppermint Pattie Serving Size = 1 pattie Calories = 140 Carbs = 31g Fat = 2.5g 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. 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

Whoppers 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

Snickers 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.

For more information, visit shawntalbott.com