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Choose Your (Stolen) Treats Wisely

Of course you're not the kind of parent who raids the kids' Halloween candy after they've gone to bed. Me either.

But just in case you're tempted....The helpful folks at AOL Health have compiled a quiz that lets you test your knowledge of the calorie, fat and sugar content of some of the items you'll find in that plastic pumpkin or pillowcase. (Just think: every Butterfinger you pilfer is one less your kids will eat. So you're really doing them a favor, right?)

There are some surprises here. For instance, at 130 calories and 5 grams of fat, according to the quiz, a serving of Flipz Milk Chocolate Covered Pretzels trumps Raisinets (190 calories and 8 grams of fat). And four marshmallow-Peep-style pumpkins (100 calories, 14 grams of sugar) is clearly a better option, nutritionally speaking, than 22 pieces of candy corn (140 calories, 28 grams of sugar), though both are free of fat.

But sometimes the choices aren't so clear cut. A Hershey's bar may well have fewer calories than a 3 Musketeers bar (230 versus 260), but it's got more fat (13 grams versus 8 grams). Portion size can be tricky, too: Do 16 Junior Mints (170 calories, 3 grams of fat) deliver the same pleasure as one York Peppermint Pattie (140 calories, 2.5 grams of fat)? And while a pack of SweeTarts (150 calories) surely is less fattening than a pack of Starburst (250 calories, 5 grams of fat) and has no fat at all, who wants to eat SweeTarts?

As this article in yesterday's New York Times discusses, counting calories is back in vogue, and restaurants' providing customers with information their offerings' calorie content seem to be influencing people's dining habits.

By this time next year, as I wrote in my Lean & Fit nutrition newsletter a few weeks ago, many candies -- all of those marketed by Mars, Inc., including Snickers, Milky Way, and Twix, for example -- will have nutrition data posted prominently on the front of the wrappers. So there'll be no pretending not to know that a pack of Skittles, fruit-filled as it looks, has more calories than a pack of M&Ms (250 versus 210). Only time will tell whether such efforts will make a difference in our snacking habits. (To subscribe to Lean & Fit, go to and search for "newsletters.")

What sweet treat do you crave most this Halloween? Do you pay attention to calorie counts when you're rummaging through your kids' trick-or-treat loot? And is indulging that craving worth the calories?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  October 31, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Nutrition and Fitness  
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I TOTALLY want to eat Sweetarts!! They are my FAVORITE! I would eat them all then follow them up with Almond Joys and Jolly Ranchers! Different strokes, etc etc.

Posted by: tunatofu | October 31, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

York Peppermint patties. Sugar Daddy caramel treats........mmm.....

Posted by: scottiedog | October 31, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

SweeTarts...YUMM!!!! Ditto Starburst, Almond Joys, Butterfingers, Skittles, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (my husband and I actually fight over those!).
But my biggest weakness ever is for those Heath bars...big or little, it doesn't matter! There's just something about nibbling the chocolate off those things and then eating the toffee by itself that is to die for!

Posted by: dragondancer1814 | October 31, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Why the emphasis on total fat and sugar? I am not a nutritionist, but I have read authoritative articles on nutrition, and here is what they agree on:

Fat calories are not more harmful than carbohydrate calories. They may even be preferable, as argued by the author of the South Beach diet. Others argue for a balance of types of calories, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. What we need to avoid are specific types of fats, saturated fats and trans fats, which contribute to coronary artery disease.

Kids experience "sugar highs," which are bursts of energy that can make them unable to sit still. But for adults, sugar calories are no different from other carbohydrate calories, unless you are diabetic. But for diabetics there are other carbohydrates as bad as sugar. If diabetic, you need to find a Glycemic index to see how rapidly various carbohydrates affect blood glucose levels. The index is a ratio of the glucose impact of a fixed quantity of a food to that of eating the same quantity of pure glucose. Complex carbohydrates generally have lower GI ratings than simple carbohydrates such as starch and sugar.

Posted by: btm11 | November 4, 2008 8:17 AM | Report abuse

I second btm11 to some degree...I hate when people try to compare nutrition by counting calories, but in this case there really aren't any good choices - sure peanut M&Ms have a bit of nutrition but who are we kidding really - so calories offer some information.

I think the best advice is to take the candy bowl off of the counter!!!

Posted by: mb129 | November 4, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I love anything peanut butter & chocolate--Snickers & peanut butter cups top the list. But there's almost nothing in their bags I wouldn't eat, given the chance, except Mary Janes. I do try to ask them first and not eat anything they don't have plenty of...
I rarely eat candy, so a Halloween indulgence (ok, pig-out) is worth it.

Posted by: GirlScoutMom | November 4, 2008 3:06 PM | Report abuse

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