10 Healthy Halloween Treats for a Healthy Gut
Let’s face it, the Halloween season is ALL about sugary treats. And who could blame you if you end up indulging in hard-to-resist treats when they’re offered on every corner? Still, it would be a good idea to balance these out with healthier choices, especially for the sake of your gut health.
As you probably know, Halloween treats are high in sugar. A quick look at their Nutrition Facts Label is really the scariest thing about Halloween.
As explained in a recently published review in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, too much sugar causes many of the same health problems as too much alcohol: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and fatty liver. What’s more, overindulging in sweets disrupts the intestinal barrier, leading to leaky gut, dysbiosis, and poor immunity.
To protect your (and your loved ones’) gastrointestinal health this Halloween, choose healthy candy made with wholesome ingredients and less sugar. Below are a couple of great ideas to get you started. Our choices include some store-bought items and homemade options.
10 Healthy Candies That Won’t Trick Your Gut
Make trick-or-treating healthy this fall season with these 10 healthiest candies and sweets. These are some of the best candies for your stomach. They include fiber-rich ingredients that are overall nutritious. Most of our choices are also lower in added sugar than what you normally see on All Hallows' Eve.
1. Homemade Granola Bars
Commercial cereal bars are seen as a healthier and gut-friendly alternative to chocolate bars. But many governmental organizations discourage their intake because they tend to be high in saturated fat and added sugar. That’s why your best bet is to make your own at home. Plus, it’s cheaper this way! This homemade granola by Love & Lemons is a gut-healthy option made with natural peanut butter, oats, nuts, and a little bit of honey.
2. Peanut Butter Cups
Peanut butter cups are not something we normally associate with the word “healthy.” But that’s only if you go for the store-bought stuff. Homemade ones are a much better option. Just check out these healthy peanut butter cups made with clean and simple ingredients. According to one randomized control trial, eating peanut products boosts memory and lowers stress by increasing the amount of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in the gut.
3. Dehydrated or Freeze-Dried Fruit
One way to get the kids to eat more fruit is by sneaking in dried or freeze-dried options. From dehydrated apples to banana chips to freeze-dried strawberries and mango chips, there’s nothing better than nature’s candy! Studies on fiber in fruit have found that it helps prevent and relieve constipation by increasing stool bulk and water content.
4. Energy Bites
Energy bites, also called power balls, protein balls, or vegan truffles, are great for gut and overall health. Made from wholesome ingredients like nut butter, oats, seeds, dates, dried fruit, and flax meal, they come together in minutes. There’s no need to add sugar and processed fats to these goodies; their sweetness mainly comes from dried fruit. And because they’re made with nothing but high-fiber ingredients, energy bites are an ideal choice for gut health.
5. Nut and Seed Brittle
Now, brittle isn’t exactly a “health food.” But if you want something more indulgent but that also provides ample fiber, plant protein, vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy fats, then nut and seed brittle it is. This recipe by Clean Eating calls for honey and coconut sugar while packing nuts to the brim. The idea is that if you’re already munching on sweets this season, then sneaking in fiber-rich nuts and seeds can offset some of this.
6. Dark Chocolates
Since you simply cannot have Halloween without chocolate, go for the healthiest kind to deter that post-chocolate guilt. Dark chocolate is chocolate with 50-90% cacao solids, a bit of cocoa butter, and some added sugar. The low sugar and saturated fat of this healthy candy are already good enough for your gut. But one study published this year also found that dark chocolate has probiotic effects, improving microbiome balance and lifting mood via the gut-brain axis.
7. Graham Crackers
Because this Halloween season is gut health-focused, forget about vanilla wafers and chocolate chip cookies and opt for graham crackers. Store-bought ones are made with enriched whole-grain flour and graham flour, both great sources of dietary fiber. They also have honey and added sugar, but less than other crispy treats. You can also choose to make your own at home and lower the added sugar content to your liking.
8. Whole Wheat Muffins
Hosting a Halloween party this year? Whole wheat muffins are easy to prepare, can feed a crowd, and offer the health benefits of dietary fiber. These spooky blueberry muffins are Halloween-themed and include whole wheat flour, blueberries, buttermilk, and butter. The whole wheat flour and blueberries add fiber for a balanced microbiome, while the milk fat in this recipe could also offer some benefits. According to a pilot study in Obesity Surgery, milk fat increases the number of Blautia probiotic bacteria. These bacteria are known to reduce fat around internal organs.
9. Gummy Bears
So, gummy bears are not exactly the healthiest candies, but they do have some redeeming qualities. First, they’re made with gelatin. Preliminary studies have found that gelatine acts as a barrier in the intestines, reducing inflammation and leaky gut. You can make healthier ones with just juice, beef gelatin, and honey. Or eat the commercial ones in moderation. And be careful with sugar-free versions! These contain artificial sweeteners that can upset your stomach.
10. Belly Crush Cookies
Belly Crush cookies are clinically proven to protect gut health. They also lower cholesterol and improve insulin sensitivity. The cookies are made with yellow pea fiber, which contains an unusually high amount of insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is important for anyone who wants to maintain healthy glucose levels. And if you have chronic constipation, insoluble fiber can help.
When looking for healthy candy for Halloween, many people make the mistake of choosing sugar-free options. These candies are often high in sweeteners that can upset your stomach if not taken in moderation. Kids can be particularly prone to stomach issues since they need to consume less to experience side effects.
Besides that, when choosing healthy candy this fall season, we know that many kids and adults alike have special dietary needs. It’s ok to use substitutions for peanut butter, dairy, and wheat. Luckily, these are becoming increasingly easy to replace with options like tahini, almond butter, plant-based milk, and alternative flours.
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Klerks M, Román S, Verkerk R, Sanchez-Siles L. Are cereal bars significantly healthier and more natural than chocolate bars? A preliminary assessment in the German market. Journal of Functional Foods. 2022; (89): 1756-4646. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2022.104940.
Parilli-Moser I, Domínguez-López I, Trius-Soler M, et al. Consumption of peanut products improves memory and stress response in healthy adults from the ARISTOTLE study: A 6-month randomized controlled trial. Clin Nutr. 2021;40(11):5556-5567. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2021.09.020
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