Candy Coded: What You Need to Know About Your Favorite Sweets

By Lindsey Emery

It seems like these days there's always a reason for a sweet treat -- holidays, baby showers, birthdays, and the list goes on. We could tell you not to eat it, but unless you have the willpower of a saint everyone craves sugar once in a while. To help, we got the dish on the best drugstore treats to nibble on and the ones to completely nix.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
"If you're craving chocolate, then the darker, the better," says Katie Cavuto Boyle, RD, owner of Healthy Bites. "Dark chocolate has less sugar, is dairy-free, and is rich in antioxidants that have been shown to reduce blood pressure and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease."

  • Nibble: Hershey's Miniatures: Special Dark
    Serving Size: 5 pieces
    200 calories; 13g fat; 7g saturated fat; 25mg sodium; 24g carbs; 18g sugar; 3g protein
  • Nix: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Miniatures
    Serving Size: 5 pieces
    220 calories; 13g fat; 5g saturated fat; 130mg sodium; 26g carbs; 23g sugar; 4g protein

Related: 8 Easy Ways to Burn Off Those Halloween Treats

White? Out!
"White chocolate is your least healthy option," says Boyle. "It doesn't actually contain any cocoa -- only cocoa butter -- and it's packed with sugar and added fat from the extra milk products used."
  • Nibble: Kit Kat Snack Size
    Serving Size: 3 packs
    210 calories; 11g fat; 7g saturated fat; 30mg sodium; 27g carbs; 21g sugar; 3g protein
  • Nix: Hershey's Bliss White Chocolate Meltaway
    Serving Size: 6 pieces
    230 calories; 14g fat; 9g saturated fat; 70mg sodium; 24g carbs; 24g sugar; 3g protein

Save Your Kisses
Don't be fooled: A kiss is not just a kiss. There are now seven different types of Hershey's Kisses, plus a seasonal pumpkin-flavored one, and they each have unique nutritional info. If they all taste the same to you, go for the gold wrapper -- they've got less fat.
  • Nibble: Milk Chocolate Kisses filled with Caramel
    Serving Size: 9 pieces
    190 calories; 9g fat; 6g saturated fat; 75mg sodium; 27g carbs; 23g sugar; 3g protein
  • Nix: Meltaway Milk Chocolate Kisses
    Serving Size: 9 pieces
    210 calories; 13g fat; 8g saturated fat; 50mg sodium; 24g carbs; 22g sugar; 3g protein

Grab a Better Bag
"If you're debating which bag of M&Ms to open up, I would pick either the dark chocolate or almond ones," says Boyle. "Or, you could put the two together to create your own flavor that's full of antioxidants and protein." Most importantly, don't wolf down the whole bag at once -- eating just a few should curb your candy cravings without tipping the scale, she says.
  • Nibble: Dark Chocolate M&Ms
    Serving Size: 1 bag (1.5 ounces)
    210 calories; 10g fat; 6g saturated fat; 10mg sodium; 29g carbs; 24g sugar; 2g protein
  • Nix: Peanut Butter M&Ms
    Serving Size: 1 bag (1.63 ounces)
    240 calories; 14g fat; 9g saturated fat; 100mg sodium; 26g carbs; 22g sugar; 5g protein

Pay Attention to the Fine Print
It might be common sense, but don't forget to look at the label! "Candy is candy -- the ingredient list is never going to win nutrition prizes, but when purchasing chocolate, look for chocolate to be the first ingredient and sugar to come later," says Boyle. Dark, non-alkalized (it still contains health-benefiting polyphenols) chocolate is best, adds Spano. "You should also try to avoid partially hydrogenated oils," she says. And as with all foods, the more ingredients you can pronounce the better.
  • Nibble: Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate, 60% Cacao Squares
    Serving Size: 1 square
    55 calories; 4g fat; 2.5g saturated fat; 0mg sodium; 6g carbs; 4g sugar; 0.5g protein
  • Nix: Mounds Snack Size Bar
    Serving Size: 1 bar
    80 calories; 4.5g fat; 3.5g saturated fat; 20mg sodium; 10g carbs; 7g sugar; 1g protein

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