Halloween Candy: Those that Fright and Those to Bite

Halloween can present a scary challenge for parents who struggle with getting children to eat health.  As a naturopath, I have seen many children with ADD/AHDH, acne, allergies and eczema come through the doors of my New York City office greatly improve by avoiding sugar laced treats.  In general, sugar has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity and of course, tooth decay.  On the other side of the sugar debate, studies have shown not allowing children the occasional treat may lead to overindulge and difficulty with moderation later in life.  If sugar wasn’t bad enough, there are a few other nasty things lurking inside your child’s favorite Halloween candies.  The good news is that there are some brands that have made a conscientious effort to make candies that will delight your little ghouls and ghosts without these harmful chemicals.  Warning they still do contain sugar (if you are already a patient you know that I also count agave and honey as sugar :) so should be eaten in moderation as part of a well balanced diet.

Red 40

Now lets start with a haunting tale from food science past.  In 1976, red dye number 2 was shown to be a carcinogenic, tumor-inducing agent leading to it’s subsequent ban and the mysterious disappearance of the red M&M.  Decades later the red M&M was back thanks to the discover Red 40 joined by many other red friends like Twizzlers and Hot Tamales.  This story takes another grim twist as Red 40 has also been found to be carcinogenic!  For a better alternative to M&Ms try Chocolate Gems by Unreal available in dark chocolate, milk chocolate and peanut in a candy shell that is naturally colored with herbs and vegetables.  For a twist of fate, Red Vines, Twizzlers’ West Coast revival, now makes Red Vines Made Simple without artificial colors and flavors.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

If sugar is King Kong then high fructose corn syrup is Godzilla!  High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is highly processed and because it interferes with metabolism it is strongly linked to obesity .  Creepier still a few studies have found mercury contamination in HFCS.  Label reading parents beware!  HFCS has recently gone through a name change.  Because food manufactures knew that HFCS was getting a bad rap, they requested the FDA to change its name to “corn sugar” and/or “corn syrup.”  Corn syrup aka HFCS is found in so many candies and perhaps most notably your child’s least favorite candy, candy corn (which gets its name from it’s appearance not its ingredients).  If you have that rare child or perhaps yourself who has panache for candy corn, YumEarth makes a version with brown rice syrup and honey.  Turmeric (not tartrazine see below) provides the yellow and orange hues of the corn.  


For parents’ with a child with ADD/ADHD, food colorings and other additives may be their worse nightmare. Tartrazine aka Yellow 5 is no exception as it belongs to the avoid list on the Feingold’s Diet, which is one of the approaches as a naturopathic doctor I use when working with children with ADD/ADHD and autism.  Besides causing hyperactivity in children, tartrazine can cause severe allergic reactions and bladder and immune system cancers.  Mostly found giving an orangey yellow color to processed mac and cheese and cheese curls, your child is also having it as they “taste the rainbow” or pucker up on Sour Patch Kids.  So if your kid is the chewy fruity type, try naturally colored and flavored Gummy Fangs and Bats by YumEarth and Spooky Shapes, Organic Fruit Chews and Sour Worms by Wholesome. 

Hydrogenated Palm Oil

If hydrogenated palm oil was a Halloween character, it would be the Icky Clogging Blob because it is an inflammatory food ingredient shown to raise your bad cholesterol (LDL) while lowering your good cholesterol (HDL).  If that wasn’t bad enough, it could make you a blob as research has shown it to make mice resistant to the appetite-suppressing hormones leptin and insulin.  So it could make you eat more.  Hydrogenated Palm Oil is such a vile health foe that the French Senate recently approved an amendment to triple taxes on products containing it in an effort to reduce obesity.  Even if you aren’t worried about the health risks, the harvesting of palm oil is ecological nightmare responsible for a significant destruction of rain forests in Indonesia and Malaysia.  It is estimated by 2020, 98% of these forests will be gone forever!  So where in your child’s Halloween jack o’lantern is hydrogenated palm oil lurking?  Mostly in those chocolate fun sized treats like Milky Ways, Three Musketeers and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and some fruity things like Skittles.  To opt out of this artery clogging badness, try almond butter and peanut butter cups by Unreal.  Even better, two of these tasty cups have 100 fewer calories in comparison with Reese as well as half the amount of sugar.

If your child is struggling with ADD/ADHD and you don’t want them on medication, then schedule a naturopathic appointment with Dr Ivy.