Halloween Candy NOT to Buy (Plus What to Buy Instead!)

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Every year on the first day of October, I venture out of my house to stop at all the nearby retail stores to see what goodies they have stocked for Halloween. Sometimes I buy crafting supplies, or I’ll get some Halloween-themed socks, but most of the time, I head straight for the crux of the holiday—the candy aisle.

I’m a candy fanatic and have been since I was a little kid, and I can safely say that the saddest part of my childhood was when I got “too old” to trick-or-treat (how can anyone be too old for free candy?!). But as an adult with no children to speak of, I enjoy the yearly Halloween bash the same way I always have—with inexpensive decorations, pumpkin carving, and loads and loads of my most favorite candies.

Over the years, my tastes have changed, and some of the candies I used to detest as a kid are now on my “must have” list (like Mary Jane’s peanut butter taffy!). Similarly, some candies I loved as a kid—Nerds is one example—now just taste like crunchy tooth decay.

We all know the specialty candies that companies release during the holidays—Cookies n’ Scream M&Ms, Sweet Heat Skittles, and Sweet Heat Starbursts—often overshadow some of the classic Halloween favorites. What I’ve found, however, is that these specialty candies are usually marketed for adults—not kids—and that the candy palette of a child is significantly different from that of an adult.

The Halloween Treat Nobody Wants

Before I talk about what candies will excite your neighborhood kids the most on Halloween, let’s talk about a few things you probably don’t want to hand out. Even though most people know not to hand out homemade candies, unwrapped foods, or gourmet goods like candied apples, it still happens every year (and no, this isn’t about “poisoned” treats. “Poison candy” is a myth that began in the 1970s when Ronald O’Bryan laced a Pixy Stix with cyanide to intentionally murder his own son. He blamed the “poisoned candy,” which is what started the myth, and even after his entire evil plot was revealed, people refused to let the rumor die. True story.)

In short, don’t hand out homemade goods unless it’s your neighbors/people you’re close to. If someone’s kid did end up sick, you’re likely the first person they’ll blame for it… even if it’s just a sugar-induced tummy ache.

But if you want your candy dish cleaned out and to see kids with overflowing trick-or-treat bags, here’s a few other items that you should most definitely avoid, especially if you’re trying not to be that house on the block. You know, the one kids purposefully avoid because the homeowners give out boxes of raisins or whole apples.

Toothbrushes. Say no to toothbrushes. No kid wants a toothbrush, and most parents will throw the brush away (which is a waste, especially when there are homeless people who actually really and truly need that brush). If you’re a dentist, it’s probably better to hand out nothing and have a sign in your hard that says, “Half-off cleanings Nov. 1.”

Any kind of fruit, fresh or dried. Even if the raisins or cranberries are yogurt covered… no. Halloween is supposed to be that one night of the year where eating candy is okay. It’s up to the parents to teach their kids portion control and healthy eating habits, and those raisins are going to end up in the trash (or in mom or dad’s belly).

Pencils, pens, pads of paper, and erasers. I know you may be thinking, “But kids can use that stuff in school!” Well, I have some bad news… Little kids are usually getting some of that cute Halloween-themed stuff from school already (I had teachers who gave out ghost-shaped erasers and pumpkin-covered pencils every year). Moreover, those themed pencils aren’t always #2, which means they’re useless for those good ol’ scantron tests.

Full-sized candy bars. Yes, kids love getting big-sized bars or bags of candy on Halloween, but let me tell you a short story… My sister and I used to go trick-or-treating with my cousin, and his neighbor would hand out regular-sized candy bars ever year. But the rub was this—he never had enough for everyone, so he would parcel them out to the kids he knew… in front of the kids he didn’t know! My cousin would get a big bar, and my sister and I would get nothing.

This occurred about 20 years ago, and we still talk—and laugh—about it. As a child, it feels like a pretty big injustice, and for some kids, it’ll make them cry or totally ruin their night. So, if you’ve got enough money to give everyone a big-sized candy bar, go for it. But if you don’t, go for fun-sized bars.

Kids Want Candy… But Only Certain Kinds

Several websites, including Jet and NJ, have had polls up for weeks so people can vote on which Halloween candies are their favorites. I love these types of polls because they let me know what candies are the most popular and what needs to be purchased early (you should try this tactic, too, because you can just pick up the most popular candies when you go to buy your kid’s Halloween costume).

But the biggest problem with these polls is that they often only account for adults (let’s be honest, most kids aren’t online to vote for their favorite candy in census-type polls on random webpages). Jet’s website, however, had a poll going that allowed kids to rank their favorite candies, and the results surprised people.

Less Chocolate, More Color. When you’re a kid, it’s all about the color, the sugar, and the texture. When I was a kid, I liked chocolate candies okay, but I much, much preferred candies like Sour Patch Kids and Lemonheads. Perhaps not so surprisingly, some of the candies kids ranked at the top were Smarties (the US kind—not the chocolate Canadian kind), Nerds, and Skittles.

The Only Two Chocolates. Out of all the chocolates on Jet’s poll, kids only ranked Twix and M&Ms at the top. I don’t think this is surprising, either, because M&Ms are colorful, come in different types and flavors, and they have such a satisfyingly crunchy exterior. Twix combines chewiness and cookies–childhood gold—and I’ve never actually met anyone who didn’t like Twix.

Chewy, Chewier, and Chewiest. When you’re young, you’re free to chew the chewiest candy on the planet without worrying about fillings, crowns, or fake teeth. Kids ranked Starbursts, Laffy Taffy, and Sour Patch Kids in the top 10—candies adults often overlook because most of us can’t handle the chewiness (or sourness).

I’m not saying that kids don’t like Reese’s Cups or that they’ll turn their nose up at KitKats, but kids and adults don’t always agree on what tastes good. When I was young, I really didn’t like Reese’s Cups at all (it’s only the last few years or so that I’ve actually really started liking them), but I loved Milky Ways.

Butterfingers are another candy that tons of adults love, but most kids don’t because butterfingers are hard and crumbly, and have a taste that’s… sort of like peanut butter, but not really (Chick-o-Sticks—the long, orange candy in the striped packaging that literally no child will touch—are pretty much Butterfingers sans chocolate. 5th Avenue Bars are also just Hershey’s version of the Butterfinger).

Kids also typically don’t like “adult” flavors, like coconut, dark chocolate, and nuts in general, so try to avoid Mounds, Almond Joys, and Baby Ruths.

In general, go with chewy, sticky, colorful sweet candies and hoard all the delicious chocolate for yourself. Just don’t forget to brush!

Are you ready for Halloween yet? If not, don’t fret! Just head over to TopProducts.com and check out their Halloween section for the most accurate reviews on costumes, decorations, face paints, and everything you need to make your holiday extra spooky and extra fun.

August Wright, TopProducts Staff Writer