Candy is obviously not the go-to food when you're trying to lose weight. It's kind of like shopping for Manolos on a Payless budget. But we adore our shoes and our sweets. And if metallic is the new black, then cocoa is the color of confection. In our recent snacking poll, 23 percent of you admit to a weakness for candy, but of those, 21 percent say it's all about chocolate.
True, we're always reading stories about how chocolate is a health food; its flavonoids seem to reduce blood pressure, and a good portion of its fats don't clog the circulatory system. But that's when you nibble on it-and minus the chewy, gooey, truffley, nuggets that make us eat it in large, caloric amounts.
So check out this healthy GPS to guide you through the chocolate candy aisles-and beyond. Thanks to The Nutrition Twins, Tammy Lakatos Shames and Lyssie Lakatos, both registered dietitians and authors of The Secret to Skinny and Fire Up Your Metabolism, we've got some great ways to treat a sweet tooth without the fat crash.
The Six to Nix
Raising the Bar. Read the labels. A Toblerone white chocolate bar is only 180 calories; however, the slender prism is actually three servings, meaning if you eat it all, you're getting 540 calories and 30 grams of fat. Calories in commercial bars range from the low to high 200s, depending partly on the size. Baby Ruths are particularly loaded: 280 calories and 8 grams of saturated fat. Snickers and 5 th Avenue bars are close behind. You're much better off with, say, a York Peppermint Pattie-a slightly smaller portion, but a nice taste thwack with only 140 calories and 1.5 grams of saturated fat.
Fattest Bites: The Lindt Classics chocolate sampler averages 230 calories and 10 grams of saturated fat for three pieces. Most assorted chocolates have similar numbers. For fewer calories and zero fat, you can have 10 times as many candy corns. Or suck on a chocolate Tootsie Pop-no fat and only 60 calories-and it will occupy your taste buds much longer than these three sampler nibbles.
Sugar-free Calorie Bombs. Don't be fooled by the "free." For example Sarris makes a sugar-free chocolate bar that contains 300 calories and 12 grams of saturated fat. (You're better off with your Snickers.) And Russell Stover sugar-free toffee has 210 and 9 grams of saturated fat for three squares.
Worst Health Fakers: Just because a bar sits in the healthy display stand, doesn't mean it's any better than the candy on the other side of the racks. Although Kashi makes some great products, their GoLean Chewy Chocolate Almond Toffee bar is 290 calories, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and 7 teaspoons of sugar. The Cookies N' Cream flavor is about the same. Did we hear "lean"?
Just Beans: How much could chocolate-covered coffee beans set you back-they're mostly java, right? The answer is, about 200 calories and 7 grams of fat for a handful. As for Boston Baked Beans candy, they're also 200 per serving and, while peanuts are indeed legumes, they're not exactly the beans nutritionists are always telling us to eat more of.
Total Insanity: If you ever wondered how to fit almost 1000 calories in the palm of your hand, just pick up a deep fried Mars Bar. Some versions come in for less, but there are so many better ways to spend your calories. Here are few:
5 Healthy Chocolate Fixes (plus a pie)
Next time you have a craving, try these low-cal, nutrient rich alternatives from The Twins:
Chewy Chocolate Nuggets: Take 4 dates and roll them in unsweetened cocoa powder. You get a load of antioxidents and 3 grams of fiber for only 100 calories.
Cake Batter Candy: "Raw batter is usually this is a 'no no'," says Tammy, "but this doesn't have the eggs and you're not making a whole cake here, so it's a small portion." Mix 3 tablespoons of chocolate cake mix and 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of water, depending on how gooey you like your batter. (75 calories.)
Frozen Chocolate Chips: Slice an overripe banana into coins, drizzle with a tablespoon of sugar-free chocolate syrup, and lay them flat in a zipper plastic bag. Freeze. (About 112 calories.)
Banana Lick-ity-Split: Take 1/2 a banana, roll it in unsweetened cocoa powder, and top with 2 tablespoons of fat- free whipped cream (70 calories, 0 grams fat.)
White Chocolate Yogurt: "You'll be surprised how the protein helps satisfy a craving," says Lyssie. Just add 1 to 2 teaspoons of unsweetened cocoa powder to a 6-ounce tub of light vanilla yogurt. (About 100 calories.)
Pumpkin Cracker Pie: In case you need a chocolate break, take a can of pumpkin (lots of fiber and vitamin A) and mix it with cinnamon and a teaspoon of sugar. Serve on two (2.5 inch) Graham Cracker squares. (Just over 100 calories.)
Hey, do you have healthy chocolate tricks? Don't you dare keep them to yourself!
Fore more healthy snacking advice:
7 rules to enjoy ice cream-guilt free
Cookies, muffins, doughnuts..
Chips, pretzels, and salty munchies
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]