The Huffington Post
Think that healthy Halloween snack swap you're making is, well, healthy? Think again.
Now that what is, perhaps, the number-one candy holiday has arrived, the health conscious among us are wondering if we've got any options when it comes to enjoying the festivities while not sabotaging our diet.
We know the basics. It's all about enjoying treats in moderation and swapping out the worst trick-or-treat offerings for more nutritious ones.
But what if, in spite of our best intentions, we're actually getting it wrong?
Here are some of the no-no's and not-so-goods people regularly make when reaching for "healthier" Halloween options. Guilty of any on this list?
Myth #1: Always Go Low- or Non-Fat
"People often assume that if something says 'low fat,' that means lower in calories and healthier," said Judy Caplan, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
But that's not always true.
"Often, when fat is taken out, the sugar is increased, so the calories are comparable to a full-fat, similar item," Caplan continued.
Indeed, Dr. Joanna Dolgoff, a child and adolescent obesity specialist and HuffPost blogger, said that people typically go for sugar-y, or gummy candies, which are often fat-free, thinking they're better for them.
"You may think you can cut the fat and save calories by swapping sugar candies for chocolate, but you will make up for the lack of fat with the extra added sugar in these candies," she said.
The moral? Be sure to take a more comprehensive view of the nutrition label, looking at everything from calories to fat content (and even which type of fat), before you start munching away.
Myth #2: Bite-Size Is Best
They may all be splashed with the same "fun size" designation, but the similarities between the bite-size minis end there. Dolgoff said there are enormous differences in calorie and fat amounts among fun-size bars, which are small, yes, but often very dense.
Caplan added that many are filled with hydrogenated fats, refined sugars and other saturated fats.
"Plus, usually minis are so sweet that they set off a sugar binge and it can be difficult to eat just one!" she said.
Your best bet? Look for "airy" minis that are indeed low in calories and fat (again, check the label) or indulge in one, healthier full-size bar rather than pigging out on a whole bag of little ones.
Myth #3: Sugar-Free Means Healthy
Not so, Caplan said. When one item, i.e. sugar, is reduced in a recipe, other ingredients, and not always good ones, are often added to help improve taste.
"It may be sugar free, but still be loaded with carbohydrates from flours and grains," Caplan said. "Sugar free does not mean fat-free either."
Nor, Dolgoff added, does it mean fewer calories. A lot of candy made with sugar substitutes has as many calories as sweets with just straight sugar itself.
Myth #4: Always Go All-Natural
Natural doesn't mean a food is low in fat or calories, Caplan said. And packaged snacks can be made from all-natural ingredients, but prepared in a not particularly healthful way.
Caplan gave the following savory example:
"Potato chips may be made from really potatoes, but once they are fried in overheated omega 6 fatty acids and salted, they may not be healthy," Caplan said. "100 percent natural can be misleading."
Myth #5: Candy With Fruit and Nuts Is Healthier
Fruits and nuts are indeed healthy and nutrient-dense, Dolgoff said, but when added to candy they just pack on unneeded calories and fat. She cited chocolate covered raisins and peanuts (or candies that include both ingredients) -- they may seem healthier, but they often have "scary calorie stats."
Myth #6: Chewy, Fruity Candy Is Fat-Free
Some of them are, some of them aren't, but without checking you shouldn't necessarily assume the one you're reaching for is without first checking the label. Look for ingredients like partially hydrogenated oils, which signify the presence of trans fat, Dolgoff said. She also recommended considering hard candies, which tend to have "reasonable" calorie counts, are fat free and dissolve on your tongue so you enjoy them slowly.
Myth #7: Dark Chocolate Is Always Your Best Bet
"Yes, studies show that dark chocolate is heart healthy, but individuals in the study only consumed 1 ounce which contains approximately 150 calories," Dolgoff said.
So enjoy dark chocolate but remember it's still a treat -- something to be enjoyed for pleasure -- and not a nutritional supplement.