You’re trained to think that candy is Very Bad for you. But everyone knows it tastes too good to turn down — and that temptation basically quadruples around Halloween. Luckily, experts say certain candies are better for you than others. To satisfy your sweet tooth teeth in the healthiest way possible, use this guide to make smart choices whenever cravings hit:
When You Want Peanut Butter: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Wins
“They have almost one-third of the calories, 19 grams fewer carbs, and about one-third of the saturated fat of a Butterfinger,” says registered dietitian and Mom Dishes It Out author Laura Cipullo. More good news for Reese’s: Since they’re made with actual peanut butter, they contain 5 grams of protein, which helps to balance out their sugar content and keeps you satisfied for longer, says registered dietitian Amy Shapiro.
When You Just Want a Classic Chocolate Bar: Dove Bar Wins
In terms of calories and saturated fats, these bars are nearly identical, so go ahead and nosh on your favorite. However, Shapiro notes that a Hershey’s bar has slightly more sugar and two extra ingredients, so you may be slightly better off with a Dove bar. “The fewer ingredients, the better,” she says.
When You’re Feeling Nutty: PayDay Wins
If you’re going to have a candy bar, choosing one with nuts is a smart move because they supply some satisfying, healthy fat,” says Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. PayDay’s 7 grams of protein make it a better option than a Snickers, which has only 4 grams of protein — not to mention that a PayDay contains significantly less saturated fats and sugars, and no partially-hydrogenated oil. “For an even healthier choice with the same indulgent taste, choose a fruit-and-nut bar like a Kind bar or Lara Bar Uber,” adds Ansel.
When You Want Bittersweet: Black Licorice Wins
It’s always a good idea to stay away from fake foods, which, with corn syrup, artificial colorings, and lots of preservatives, is basically what Twizzlers are. If you’re OK with the slightly medicinal taste of traditional black licorice, have it instead, says nutrition therapist and registered dietitian Limor Baum.
When You’re in the Mood for Fruity: Starbursts Wins
n spite of the difference in size, you’re actually better off with Starbursts than Skittles. “Starbursts contain one-third less sugar than Skittles, and are fat- and saturated fat-free,” says Shapiro. “They also contain fewer artificial ingredients, hydrogenated oils, and artificial coloring.” Don’t be fooled by the amount of vitamin C in Skittles — it’s listed as half of your recommended daily intake. “You’ll get a whopping three teaspoons of sugar in return,” Ansel says.
When You Want a Bite (or Two…) of Chocolate: Hershey’s Kisses Wins
This decision centers on the perennial issue of portion control. While Hershey’s Kisses are individually wrapped — and therefore take a little longer to eat than a handful of M&Ms — it’s hard not to make a serious dent in what’s usually a large bag. Nonetheless, they lack the sugar- and artificial coloring-filled outer layer of candy of M&Ms, which works in their favor.
When You Want Something Sweet and Tart: Smarties Wins
Cipullo excitedly told us that Smarties are the perfect cure to mindless eating. “Only 25 calories for one roll!” she exclaims. “Nerds have triple the calories in just one tablespoon of candy and contain three sources of sugar in the ingredients list, which is a lot for such a tiny product.
When You Want a Sucker: Jolly Rancher Wins
Though hard candies are less likely to damage your waistline since they take longer to consume, they are not friends to your teeth. “To minimize dental damage, choose a Jolly Rancher,” says Baum. “A Blow Pop has a sweet, chewy, bubble-gum center, which glues sugar to your teeth as you chew on it.” Three Jolly Ranchers contain almost the same number of calories as a single Blow Pop, meaning you can spread out your sucking, and enjoy them at a few different points during the day, says Shapiro.
When You Want Something Minty: York Peppermint Patty Wins
Though Junior Mints provide four times more iron, a York Peppermint Patty wins in terms of calories, saturated fats, and sugar — and gets bonus points for coming in an individual portion size. “Compared to a standard candy bar, a 140-calorie Peppermint Patty is a major calorie bargain, especially since it has only 2.5 grams of fat,” says Ansel.
I Want Candy