Smarter Candy Picks?

Call me crazy, but I start thinking about Halloween in August. Not the costumes, the candy. I'm a self-professed candy junkie, and it turns out, I'm not alone. The good news is, some candy choices are a little better than others.

Chocolate

For chocolate lovers, the darker the better (and the higher the percentage of cacao, the better). Dark chocolate has less sugar, is often dairy-free, and is rich in antioxidants that may reduce blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Add a few nuts, and you get an extra boost of protein; a few raisins, and you ramp up fiber and antioxidants. Add a little mint, and you have a refreshing treat with little fat. When choosing milk-chocolate varieties, opt for fillings that are light and airy over those that are thick and dense.

As Always, Read Labels

When buying bread, you probably make sure "whole grain" is first on the ingredient list, right? Do the same with candy: "Chocolate" should be first on the ingredient list, followed by other ingredients you can pronounce. By the way, not all chocolate kisses are alike. Hershey's boasts multiple different kinds, plus seasonal varieties, and they're nutritionally different. Read labels before you choose.

Mini Lessons

"Fun size" and miniature candies aren't always the better choice. Individual pieces are smaller, but calories and fat might be the same or higher. For example: one serving of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures (5 pieces) has 220 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat. One package of regular Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (2 per serving) has 210 calories and 4.5 grams of saturated fat. The only way to be certain is to read labels and compare.

Go Hard or Go Home?

Another way to enjoy a sugary treat without going overboard? Hard candies. Suckers, like lollipops, last longer than, say, a bag of jelly beans.

  • 1 Tootsie-Pop has 60 calories and zero fat.
  • 3 Jolly Ranchers have 70 calories (no fat)
  • 9 Gobstoppers have 60 calories (no fat)
  • 1 fun-size bag of Lemonheads has just 50 calories. (Now that's "fun.")
"Sugar-Free" is Not Necessarily a Free Pass

Just because a candy is sugar-free doesn't mean it's wise to look past the other nutritional stats. For example:

  • 5 pieces of Hershey's Sugar-Free Chocolate Candy contain 160 calories, 8 grams of saturated fat
  • 5 Hershey's Miniatures have 210 calories, 7 grams of saturated fat.

You save 50 calories but you gain 1 gram of saturated fat. Plus, it's a mental game; satisfy cravings with the real deal and you might even eat less.

Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.

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