So. Much. Sugar.

I trust you already know that candy isn’t the healthiest of food options. In fact, in some cases, it may be one of the worst options, but that doesn’t mean it has to be entirely off limits. As a Master Nutritionist and mom to three little monsters, I mean kids, Halloween is an exciting day of family fun, spooky festivities and of course, CANDY is involved.

Here are my tips as both a mom and Master Nutritionist for keeping a healthy balance in the home this Halloween.

1. Balance!

There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself or allowing your kids to a bite-sized Milky Way or sneaking a few Skittles every once in a while. Many kids look forward to dressing up and begging for treats all year long. But when an occasional treat turns into a ritual that occurs every single day after that one night– at lunch or each night, maybe even you dig into the candy stash after the kids are in bed, that’s when it can start to wreak havoc on your health. Yikes!

My best advice, limit the number of treats permitted and also limit treats to the actual day of the event. After the event is over, so are the treats. We donate the extra candy to local charities or create neighbor bags that we give out all year long.

2. Know WHY we avoid the candy.

We all know how easy it is to develop a candy-eating habit around Halloween— when sweet treats seem to pop up just about everywhere you go and fighting temptations feels like an uphill battle. But it’s important that you know and especially your kids know WHY we don’t binge on candy. Sugar consumption is directly linked to weight gain, ADD, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and poor digestion and immune system function as it wreaks havoc on the blood sugar and creates an unhealthy microflora environment in the gut. As a former Type 2 Diabetic and now turned Master Nutritionist, I can tell you that a spooky monster pales in comparison to that of a bowl of sugary, tempting candy!

3. Have “healthier” alternatives available.

While we all know candy and treats will never make the “Super Food” list with male and spinach, we can, however, make better choices.

Here are my top 5 picks for “healthier” Halloween Goodies:

Worst: Reeces Peanut butter cups.
Big thumbs down because they’re made with non-organic, GMO peanuts, refined sugar and preservatives. She pointed out that one package (two peanut butter cups) has 13 grams of fat and 21 grams of sugar and especially recommends that kids avoid them if they’re at risk of being overweight or developing early onset diabetes.

Healthier Option: Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.
Justin’s creamy, chocolate peanut butter cups are gluten-free and made with organic ingredients. These treats are a much healthier version of the traditional Reese’s Peanut Butter cups as the peanuts in these are organic, non- GMO and there are no preservatives or trans fats.

Worst: Candy Corn (AKA Pure Sugar!)
This candy mainly consists of sugar in the form of high-fructose corn syrup — the most refined type of sugar that is also genetically modified. Not to mention, it’s made with artificial flavors and colors, which are especially for kids with allergies, asthma or ADD.

Healthier Option: Organic fruit snacks.
These can be found everywhere Organic foods are sold and are much gentler for little tummies. Often times sweetened with natural juices or cane sugar and the natural colors and flavors may not cause the side effects that artificial colors and flavors do, like head or stomach aches.

Worst: Skittles (taste the sugar!)
These rainbow-colored candies are made with high-fructose corn syrup, more refined sugar, hydrogenated palm oil, and artificial colors and flavors, all of which may be linked to hyperactivity, food allergies and even cancer!

Healthier Option: Why not offer real fruit instead of candy that just mimics fruit?
We offer our trick-or-treaters the chance to bob-for-apples. If parents don’t want their little monster playing in the water we offer a bowl of organic green apples to grab and go. Kids love the activity and parents appreciate that we offer one less sugar temptation.

Worst: Tootsie Rolls / Tootsie Pops
Because they are sticky and waxy, these candies are some of the worst for your teeth. Plus, they’re made of not-so-nutritious ingredients like hydrogenated soybean oil and artificial flavors and colors. Additionally, just six small Tootsie Roll pieces can contain about 20 grams of sugar. That’s pretty close to the amount that the American Heart Association says an ADULT women should limit their intake to for just one day!

Healthier Option: YumEarth Organic Lollipops.
These lollipops are vegan, free of all allergens including gluten, free of high-fructose corn syrup, and free of artificial colors and flavors. Plus, they’re made with all organic ingredients and real fruit extracts.

Worst: Three Musketeers.
This one has 40 grams of sugar for a full-size bar! This is nearly double the daily recommendations of sugar for an adult woman!

Healthier Option: When it comes to chocolate, go dark!
Research points bar dark chocolate contains flavanols – substances that help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function, improve cognitive function, and even provides UV protection for our skin! Dark chocolate has a higher proportion of flavanols than milk chocolate. I suggest Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Squares, Godiva or Lindt brands that all offer chocolate lovers a healthier alternative.