Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Don't get spooked by Halloween candy

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VANCOUVER -- There's no need for parents to get spooked about the chocolate choices they'll have to make for their little ghosts and goblins this Halloween, says a Vancouver-area dietitian and author.

In fact, Gloria Tsang said all parents need to do is peek at the lists of ingredients haunting the wrappers of mass-produced chocolate and candy bars.

If parents don't know what an ingredient is or have difficulty pronouncing its name then that product may best be relegated to the realm of the grim reaper.

"The candy that we purchase from the grocery store, we know they are not high-quality candies," said Tsang, a resident of Maple Ridge, B.C.

"Instead of looking at the calories and fat and sugar that most people look at, we actually look at the ingredient list. We feel that it is more clear to look at the ingredient so that we know what that product is actually made from."

Tsang is the author of the recently published book Go UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss, and she's been more than an apparition in the media, materializing in print publications, as well as on radio, TV and online sites.

As a teenager, Tsang was an avid trick-or-treater in the Vancouver area, and as an adult she transferred her passion for Halloween into her profession as a dietitian.

While Tsang is still an idealist about nutritional matters, she said she also lives in the real world and even her daughter and husband enjoy candy and potato chips at those not-so-spooky times of year.

She said none of the mass-produced chocolates or candies are actually good, but if parents are going to buy them they should watch for artificial colours and emulsifiers -- additives used in processed foods.

Not only are they not natural, said Tsang, but one product known as Yellow No. 5 has been associated with hyper sensitivity and hyper activity in children.

When it comes to wafer candy bars, products like Kit Kat and Twix, parents should chose the chocolate bars with the shorter list of ingredients, said Tsang.

As for peanut-based candy bars, products like Snickers and Reese's, parents should chose the product without hydrogenated vegetable oils on their lists of ingredients.

"There's no reason to have trans fat in our food," added Lisa Forster-Coull, nutritionist for B.C.'s Ministry of Health. "There are alternate sources of fat that are healthier. Trans fat is the least healthy fat that we can have and it puts us at risk for heart disease."

Greg Hook, owner of Vancouver's Chocolate Arts, said most commercial products have only a thin layer of chocolate and are just candy bars masquerading as chocolate bars.

Hook said parents should mellow out, let their children indulge in a couple of treats and monitor their diets the rest of the year.

"At Halloween, they're going and trick or treating, essentially they're coming home with a bag of garbage," he said.

If people want to hand out real chocolate, said Hook, dark chocolate is better than milk chocolate because it has less sugar.

Tsang agrees that parents shouldn't get too stressed out.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 31, 2011 D1

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