Halloween Treats: What’s Really In Them?

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

Halloween having taken place just last week, most Monctonian kids probably still have bags of candy left from the occasion. The sensible thing to do in this situation would be to dispose of excess candy or to save it for arts and crafts projects (decorations, little figures, “gingerbread” houses with cardboard wall, etc.).

What! Not eat hard-earned Halloween treats? But yes. Allow me to make my case.

Candy is a high in sugar and low in “good” nutrients– this makes it an inappropriate choice for daily treats. New Brunswickers are fortunate to have access to tasty seasonal produce such as apples, cranberries (these are good for more than just sauce– they can also be added to muffins and pancakes and pureed and mixed with apple sauce), and winter squash among others. These foods contain important nutrients and aren’t Fear Factor worthy like some candies are.

Unfortunately, many people would sooner tag veggies such as broccoli as gross than they would candy even though seemingly innocuous candies can contain rather unappetizing ingredients.

An example of such an unappetizing ingredient is tartrazine, which was featured recently in one of my chemistry labs. Tartrazine is a type of yellow food coloring used in some candies that is a by-product of petroleum distillation. Carmine, another type of food coloring (this one red), is made from crushed beetles. Insects are also used to make shellac, a glaze used on some candies.

Some adventurous eaters may be unfazed by the ”weird” ingredients contained in Halloween bonbons and enjoy eating their veggies too. To them I say, good for you! However, to those who usually turn up their noses when presented with a plate of vegetables, be aware that even less preferred vegetables are lip-smackingly delicious compared to some of the ingredients the sugary stuff contains.

Resources:

http://kidshealth.org/kid/stay_healthy/food/excess_candy.html

http://kidshealth.org/kid/talk/kidssay/comments_halloween.html

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on November 6th, 2010.
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