The Junk Food Junkie’s Guide to The Best and Worst Halloween Candy

Published on September 29th, 2008 in: Candy, Halloween, Issues |

By Maureen

“Trick or Treat,” my ass.

Everyone knows Halloween is all about the “treat” part, the free candy. It’s the one day a year where people of all ages can stuff their faces full of all kinds of junk food goodness under the single condition of dressing up and repeating this iconic phrase. Every neighborhood has their hot spots and their spots to avoid. There’s always a dentist somewhere giving out mini-toothbrushes, which makes kids groan. Every person has his or her own personal candy preferences, but like all holidays that involve overindulging in food, Halloween has some staples that are irrefutable.

candy corn
Candy corn image by willc2

Candy corn, for instance. This sugar-and-corn-syrup confection tastes absolutely nothing like corn—it doesn’t really taste like anything, actually—but its addictive deliciousness is never more pronounced than during Halloween. Recent years have seen a branching out of the candy corn family, including the “Indian Corn,” (which has a bottom level of brown instead of the traditional yellow) and pumpkin-shaped candies. These are often packaged together in some kind of Fall-themed packaging. Personally I am a huge fan of the pumpkin-shaped ones, and I do actually think they have a slightly different taste. Their rounder, bigger shape allows the sugar to disperse more, and they don’t have that white tip which basically tastes of concentrated sugar.

There are lots of Halloween treats beyond candy as well. Caramel and candy apples are hugely popular at places like state fairs, orchards, nurseries, etc. I have always preferred the caramel variety and in fact, I have never tasted a candy apple. Within the caramel apple spectrum, however, there is still a lot of room for variation.

A lot of people advocate the soft, warm caramel. The logic behind this is that the combination of the caramel mixed with the crisp tartness of the apple creates a delicious, fall treat. The problem with this approach is that the caramel can be very drippy and difficult to eat. A lot of places serve these over plates to catch the falling caramel.

candy caramel apples

Some people prefer the apple once the caramel has had a chance to harden. This is certainly easier to eat and less messy, but the cold caramel and crunchy apple can wreak havoc on teeth, so chew carefully. These coated apples have also been getting a makeover of sorts recently. I have seen several with nuts or other types of toppings on them in the last few years. I have not tried these either, as a good old-fashioned caramel apple will trump all other options for me. They often look appealing, but as mentioned above, the caramel or candy topping will have to be hard to keep the nuts in place. Depending on your stance—warm and soft or cold and hard topping—this could be a bonus or a deterrent.

If you are the person in your household in charge of supplying the candy, there is certainly no shortage of options. There are, however, surefire winners and losers. There was always a house in my neighborhood that handed out cans of soda. There was a theory that one year they forgot to buy candy and so handed out what they had. We loved it, though, and they got a reputation. Every year after that, the soda was present. I am not a big advocate of giving soda to children, but it is good in a pinch and it certainly will make going to your house memorable.

hershey bar

Full or king-size anything is always a good approach. Trick-or-treaters always want as much as possible, so the bigger the bar, the better the reception. On the flip side of that, the mini or “fun” sized bars are often sold around Halloween. Usually there are bags of mixed varieties of candies in the little sizes. If you buy these, trick-or-treaters are going to expect to receive more than one.

Leaving your home and putting out a bowl of candy for revelers to help themselves from is always a risk. Yes, it’s more fun for trick-or-treaters than no one being home, but the kids who get to those houses early always take huge handfuls. This leaves those who come out later, or have your house at the end of their route with nothing, or with the less desirable candies.

What might those undesirable candies be you might ask? Again, everything is a matter of opinion, but the things always left sitting in the bottom of my plastic pumpkin (or plastic bag once I got older) were Bit-O-Honey and its counterpart Mary Jane. I enjoy honey in tea, baked into sweets, and in many other forms, but something about these candies does not go over well. I have never known of a single person, when I was a kid or now, who would willingly or excitedly gobble up these candies. They always seem to surface around Halloween and no other time, but there isn’t anything particularly seasonal about them, and they’re certainly not in the Halloween spirit.

bit o honey

Another unpopular pair is Almond Joy and Mounds. Some people don’t mind coconut, but I am not among them. I always break open chocolates in mixed boxes so I don’t accidentally end up ingesting the shredded white stuff also found inside these bars. Mounds and Almond Joy also don’t seem to be too popular with kids. If they come in a mixed bag with the likes of their more popular cousins Snickers, Milky Way and Three Musketeers, they could always be left in there to see if kids go for them, especially if you don’t want them for yourself! It is probably not a good idea to supply simply Mounds or Almond Joy to costumed visitors.

Any seasoned (and even some who aren’t quite so seasoned) Halloween lover will tell you to pace yourself. Once you get home, evaluate your treat situation. Kids often like to take things to school and arrange trades, exchanging candy they received in multiples or the “undesirables” with stuff they actually like. This tactic can easily be applied to those who are now out of school by bringing such tradable candy to work. A good way to ration out Halloween candy is to pack little “goodie bags” for yourself to enjoy throughout the day. And remember, Halloween candy can be saved, frozen, and enjoyed long after the leaves have all fallen off of the trees.

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