We all know sugar is bad — and awesome!
But mostly bad.
It depends where it is, of course. Sugar in drinks is awful and gives you girth. Sugar in cereal ensures kids have more holes in their teeth than bullet marks in a Mosul storefront. Sugar in artisanal cakes delivered in a fine neighborhood restaurant — well, that’s an indulgence. It’s not that you eat too much sugar. It’s all those other people.
Sugar gets a pass on Halloween, though. Complaining about sweets on the great day of extortion and accumulation makes you a killjoy. But if you’re already a killjoy and want to stamp out sugar and give out treats that aren’t full of high fructose corn syrup, what can you do?
A. Just let it go.
B. Go to great lengths to provide sugar-free alternatives.
If you choose B, here are some good and not-so-good suggestions:
Russell Stover Sugar-Free chocolates
They make a peanut butter cup and a chocolate-covered brickle. Both pass the first test: You don’t feel as if you’re eating something that’s bad for lab rats, or that tastes like lab rats. They’re packaged as singles, so you can hand them out on Halloween. Downside: They’re more expensive than, say, Hershey’s fun size chocolate bars.
Sugar-free candy bars
These treats, including Lily’s Sour Cherry Double Chocolate Crunch, are flavored with stevia, which is a natural sweetener. It’s approved by the FDA, although some critics say the long-term effects of using it haven’t been studied enough. You might die in 50 years if you eat several pounds a day. You won’t, though, because the candy bars are too expensive to eat every day. There are no fun size Lily’s, so you’re paying $2.19 at Whole Foods for a bar that weighs about as much as a hummingbird hiccup. Downside: It has the mouthfeel of a chocolate-covered bicycle tire.
The name is reassuring. You needn’t pound the counter demanding to know whether these are Werther’s Knock-Offs or Werther’s Passable Copies. Both the hard candy and the caramel Originals are available in sugar-free form. Like the original Original, they provide a measured dose of sweetness that takes a fortnight to dissolve. Downside: They’re considered Grandpa Candy, which means you have to pretend to find them behind the trick-or-treater’s ear, like magic.
Godiva Sugar-Free Chocolate
Godiva is deliciously Godiva. How could it be bad? Downside: It costs $30 for a 10-bar set. (Rumor has it they give these out around Lake Minnetonka, for kids who trick-or-treat in Daddy’s speedboat.)
Sugar-free gummy bears
Why? Because kids eat them by the handful. Here we must address the problem with some sugar-free foods. If they are sweetened with sugar alcohols like xylitol or sorbitol, they can have a profoundly liberating effect on your digestive system. Enough said.
If you give out crayons on Halloween, your heart is in the right place. You want kids to be artistic and creative instead of jacked up on nougat. But what if the little tykes think they’re candy and take a bite? Mom will be flossing out Burnt Umber and cursing your name.
They’re sugar-free, right? And that’s the point, isn’t it?
No. The point of Halloween is candy, and you can either participate or not. It is a good and noble thing to open the door, ohh and ahh at the costumes of the trick-or-treaters. But if you tell them that in lieu of candy you have made a donation to a charity that provides clean water in Rwanda, it’s like waving steak in front of a puppy and then giving it a paperback book about cows.
Just give the kids some quarters. They’ll think they’re foil-covered chocolates, and spend a few minutes trying to peel them open. And, hey, that’s time they won’t spend eating sugar. Downside: They’ll spend the money on sugar.