Aisle by Aisle: Candy and Chocolates

With Halloween around the corner, here’s a rundown on some of the popular varieties and the best choices for those Halloween treat bags.
candy

Yes, I’m a candy addict! But there’s a time and place for “junkie foods,” as I call them. Here’s a rundown on some of the popular candies and the best choices for snack bags, party favors or even Halloween trick or treaters.

Be Mindful

When perusing the labels, you’ll find most candy varieties contain high fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners. There’s a reason why the USDA suggests eating sweets sparingly: They’re full of sugar, saturated fat and not very many nutrients (that’s why they’re called “empty calorie” foods). If you're having some, buy the smallest kinds or the mini-sized packs to keep from overdoing it.

There are other issues to worry about with sweets, especially if you’re passing them on to others. Nut allergies are a big concern these days, so choose nut-free varieties. Also, be mindful of candy that may be a choking hazard. I’ve emptied many goodie bags from children's birthday parties only to find taffy, bubble gum and tootsie rolls — all risky to give to toddlers! Go through the goodie bag before your child takes a peek inside. This way they won't know what they're missing.

Sugary Candy

Yes, candy rocks! But sticky candies such as gummies, caramel and taffy do just that -- stick! In this case, it's to your teeth, which helps cavities form. It’s always important to brush your teeth after eating tons of sugar, but those super gooey choices are even tough to get off with a toothbrush. If you want a sugary treat, try Twizzlers, lollipops, Smarties or hard candies (if choking isn't an concern with your kids).

Don't fall for those labels claiming a candy is a fat-free treat; sugar is naturally free of fat. All that sugar, however, will rack up those calories. Check out the comparisons below:

  • Twizzlers (4 pieces): 160 calories, 19 grams sugar
  • Gummi Bears (10 pieces): 87 calories, 13 grams sugar
  • Candy Corn (8 pieces): 140 calories, 28 grams sugar
  • Starburst (8 pieces): 160 calories, 23 grams sugar

And look at the serving size -- most likely you're not meant to eat the whole bag!

Chocolates

A large Hershey’s Symphony milk chocolate bar (2.4 ounces) contains 361 calories, 21 grams of fat and 12 grams of saturated fat. Down the entire bar and you’ve just eaten 60% of the recommended saturated fat for the entire day. Many companies have the “fun sizes,” which are smaller portions of the same bar. Even eating two or three of those is less calories than one large bag (we still recommend sticking to one mini bar).

Seen some of those commercials where a chocolate bar claims to be lighter? My 3 Muskateers bars never float! Well, here are the nutrition facts on some of those "lighter" options. Which would you choose?
  • 3 Musketeers Bar: 260 calories, 8 grams total fat and 5 grams saturated fat
  • 3 Musketeers Mini Bars (3 fun-sized bars): 190 calories, 6 grams total fat, 4 grams saturated fat
  • York Peppermint Patty (1 piece): 140 calories, 2.5 grams total fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat
  • Plain M&Ms (1.69-ounce pack): 240 calories, 10 grams total fat, 6 grams saturated fat

Peppermint Patty lovers are in luck -- it has the least amount of calories and fat. If peppermint isn't your thing, choose the 3 Musketeers minis, which have fewer calories than a chocolate bar or a regular-sized pack of chocolate candies. When you go shopping, pick up you’re two or three favorite options and compare nutrition labels just as we’ve just done above.

Dark chocolate is another choice you might consider. Read up on its health benefits here. Be mindful that companies want to sell their chocolate and may slap hyped-up health claims on their products. Stick to a small portion (more is not better).

TELL US: What's your favorite occasional candy or chocolate splurge?

Next Up

Enter to Win a Box of See's Candies Chocolates for Your Valentine

Find out how you can enter to win one of five boxes of chocolate from See's Candies.

Chocolate Guide

Buy, use and store the best chocolate for your baking needs.

Whip Up a Batch of Low-Cal Cookies

Homemade cookies are a great dessert option. They’re portioned, easy to prepare and you control the ingredients. Here are some sweet Healthy Eats approved recipes, fancy enough for company, yet casual enough for an evening snack.

The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate for Baking (and Beyond)

Chocolate is available for purchase in dizzying variety: from bitter to sweet, white to dark, powders to chips, bars to bricks. To keep your head from spinning, here's a breakdown of what you'll encounter in the baking aisle.

This Week's Nutrition News Feed

In this week's news: Doctors embrace the food-as-medicine concept; chocolate is awesome for a whole new reason; and saturated fat (slowly) comes back into the fold.

How You Can Send $50 Worth of Free Chocolate to a Friend Who Needs It the Most

Chocolatier Hotel Chocolat wants to help bring a sweet surprise to your favorite people.

Last-Minute Gift: Homemade Chocolate Truffles

It's hard to beat the decadence of chocolate truffles, but they're not always sinful. These homemade ones have 50 calories and 5 grams of sugar apiece.