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Avoiding Halloween Health Hazards

SONY DSCHalloween is almost here again! For many, October 31st marks the beginning of  holiday eating and many diet temptations. Eating candy is not only for holidays such as Halloween. Sweets are enjoyable all year round. Candy seems to be everywhere, especially now. For people with chronic kidney disease (CKD), who have been told to limit certain things in their daily diets, some candies may be too high in phosphorus, potassium or sodium. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat yourself every now and then. There are some candies that are better choices than others. Planning ahead, knowing your labs and setting goals are your best bets to ensure you are starting out the holiday season right.

Here are a few tips to get you started on the track to healthier eating this Halloween:

  • Wait until the last minute if you intend to buy candy for Halloween. This way, you are not tempted to substitute candy for otherwise, healthy snacks.
  • Buy low potassium, low phosphorus candies.
  • Chocolate and nuts are high in potassium and phosphorus. Avoid buying or if you do, limit your intake.
  • Consider giving out toys, school supplies or fruit instead of candy.
  • Write it down. People who keep food diaries are more successful at sticking to their diet plan.
  • Give it away. Package up leftover candies and give to a neighbor or friend.
  • Keep track of your weight and your lab results so you know how the extra goodies affect you.

Many popular candies happen to be of the chocolate and nut variety, which contain higher amounts of phosphorus and potassium. Because people with kidney disease cannot remove excess phosphorus and potassium from their blood effectively, it can be dangerous. Too much phosphorus can cause a person with kidney disease bone and heart problems, low blood calcium and the hardening of tissues. That is why it is important to identify candy low in phosphorus.

Potassium is a mineral as well, but it controls nerve and muscle function. The heart is one very important muscle that beats normally because of potassium. Because kidney function is minimal in people with kidney disease, potassium can build up in the body. This can cause nausea, weakness and heart failure.

There are candies that are better choices for people with chronic kidney disease and those on dialysis. In order to find out which candies are acceptable, check the nutrition label on the candy’s package to make sure it is low in phosphorus and sodium. Because phosphorus and potassium aren’t always listed on nutrition labels, refer to this list of some candies that are kidney-friendly.

Hard Candy

  • Sweetarts
  • Jolly Ranchers
  • LifeSavers
  • Lemonhead candies
  • Candy canes
  • Charms sour balls
  • Lollipops (Dum Dum Pops or Charms lollipops)
  • Smarties
  • Runts

Gummy/Chewy Candy

  • Mike and Ike candy
  • Gumdrops
  • Jelly beans
  • Gummy Bears and fruit slices
  • Starburst
  • Hot Tamales
  • Peeps marshmallows
  • Now and Later
  • Jawbreakers
  • Air Heads
  • Laffy Taffy
  • Peach and apple rings
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Skittles
  • Shortbread cookie-type candy

Like many foods on the kidney diet, some candies are usually okay in limited amounts and frequency.  Listed are some candies that can usually be eaten by people with chronic kidney disease or on dialysis in limited amounts:

  •  Toffee
  •  Caramel treats
  • Candy apples
  • Werther’s Original hard candy
  • Caramel-coated popcorn
  • Chocolate wafer candy bars
  • Chocolate-covered peppermint candies

Chocolate and nuts contain high amounts of phosphorus and potassium. If you choose to eat these candies, consider purchasing the smaller or bite size, and have only one piece occasionally. Also, remember to always take your binders with these high-phosphorus candies.

Here are examples of candy types that are usually not recommended for people with kidney disease or on dialysis:

  • Chocolate candy bars
    • Milk, dark or other types of candy bars containing chocolate or cocoa
  • Chocolate and nut candy bars
    • Snicker’s candy bar
  • Candy bars that contain nuts
    • Pay Day candy bar
  • Candy bars that contain peanut butter

Talk to your dietitian about your favorite candy and candy bars so you can get advice on alternatives, find out about new candies, as well as get tips on how you can treat yourself every once in a while. In most cases, your favorites can be worked in with some careful planning.

Happy Halloween!  Enjoy!


Information or materials posted on this blog are intended for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, medical opinion, diagnosis or treatment.  Any information posted on this blog is not a substitute for patient’s specific medical information or dietary advice.  Please consult with your healthcare team or dietitian for a more complete dietary plan and recommendations.

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