Well+Good

This secret ingredient in Halloween candy makes it so freakishly addictive

Photo: Stocksy/Sean Locke

When Halloween rolls around, it’s hard to avoid all the candy. You have to walk past aisle upon aisle of it at the grocery store, it’s up for grabs in cute little plastic pumpkins at work, and there’s even a stockpile in your own home waiting for trick-or-treaters. Given all these tempting scenarios, there’s a good chance you’ll cave and devour an entire bag, but don’t feel badly about it—it’s not even really in your control. There’s actually a secret, special-for-Halloween ingredient that makes sugary confections so freakishly addictive: nostalgia.

Basically, this nostalgic reasoning is the same culprit for you craving of all things pumpkin spice in the fall. “We’ve all had experiences with food where there’s this really wonderful memory around it, and we have this pleasure memory that goes along with it,” Rachele Pojednic, PhD, tells Time. “It’s not just pleasure from the taste or the smell of it, but also the situation that goes along with it.” So, eating fun-size Kit Kat after fun-size Kit Kat around Halloween might conjure happy memories of being 8 years old again, and trick-or-treating in your neighborhood with friends and family.

“We’ve all had experiences with food where there’s this really wonderful memory around it, and we have this pleasure memory that goes along with it. It’s not just pleasure from the taste or the smell of it, but also the situation that goes along with it.” —Rachele Pojednic, PhD

Nostalgia isn’t the only reason you crave Halloween candy like crazy, though. There’s also a nutritional trifecta that makes fighting the urge nearly impossible: sugar, fat, and salt. When all three are involved, your brain essentially transforms into a ravenous junk-food-craving monster. (And not the cute kind.) “You can just keep unwrapping and popping those little suckers,” Dr. Pojednic says. “But that wouldn’t happen if you walked into an office and there was a bowl of white sugar on the table.”

Already salivating just reading about candy? You’re certainly not alone. But if you want to indulge in a healthier way, choices are out there that definitely still offer that trifecta—just with better-for-you ingredients.

Here’s the astrological reason why Halloween might feel like a real turning point this year. Or, check out the nine healthy recipes that will take your Halloween party to the next level.