Candy is—wait for it—bad for you. Toxic, even, by some accounts. But nutrition experts aren’t monsters, so we asked four of them to pick the best (and worst) Halloween candies for your health. Spookily, they all said the same thing, and it’s not something that fans of root beer gummies are going to want to hear.
“The worst kind of Halloween candy is any candy made of pure sugar, like Skittles, Pixy Stix, Airheads and candy corn,” says Jennifer Willoughby, registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. You might think candies like those are relatively healthy options, since many are marketed as “fat-free,” but manufacturers don’t need fat to make a sticky mess of corn syrup, sucrose, gelatin, wax and artificial flavors.
“These concentrated sweets have a dramatic effect on raising blood sugar, which over time can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance and diabetes,” Willoughby says.
Dietitian Kristi King of Texas Children’s Hospital agrees that all-sugar candy is the most useless kind you could eat. Both RDs recommended the same substitute: dark chocolate candy with nuts, for its “minor amounts of protein and antioxidants,” King says.
“Many candies contain some actual food, like chocolate, nuts and coconut,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “Others are just sugar, colorings, flavorings, and texturizing agents: something like Skittles comes to mind.” Candy that doesn’t qualify as any type of food, Katz agrees, is the worst.
Any wet-blanket candy roundup wouldn’t be complete without a dentist. “Candy will feed the monsters in your mouth,” says Damien Walmsley, a professor of dentistry at the University of Birmingham in the UK and a scientific advisor to the British Dental Association. “The worst are the type that cling and stick to your teeth the longest”—which can include toffee, sticky chocolate and gummy candy.
“If continually eaten, they will stay around the mouth, allowing the monster bugs to feed on the candy and attack your teeth.” (Before any children decide to egg Walmsley’s house, remember that this week he gave you license to stop flossing.)
So if you’re handing out candy this holiday, don’t be the guy who gives boxes of raisins. Any other week, your brain trust of nutrition experts would agree they’re a fine food, but since Snickers are getting their reluctant nod, take advantage.