October 31st is Halloween, and November 4th is National Candy Day. What’s a calorie-counting candy lover to do?
Here are some of your best candy choices.
Note that this is not permission to gorge on anything on the list. You should limit yourself to 150-calorie portions daily—and limit gorging to lettuce and celery.
Cacao Nibs: These are sold plain in health food stores, but SweetRiot chocolate-coated cacao nibs are more of a candy treat. The brand sells its nibs coated in 65% or 70% chocolate. Cacao beans, especially when eaten raw, are one of the highest antioxidant foods (however, roast them and coat them, and you lose a lot of “benefit.” You can find Sweet Riot at retailers nationwide.
Chocolate Bars: Choose bars that are 70% cacao and higher. The higher the percentage of cacao, the lower the amount of sugar. With milk chocolate the situation is reversed. You can have 70% cacao bars enhanced with nuts (but not “praline,” which adds sugar) or an “Aztec” chocolate bar, which adds chile and cinnamon spices.
Chocolate-Covered Fruits: From dried apricots to fresh strawberries, there are good choice here. Fresh fruit—apples, strawberries, orange peel and segments—are a better bet. Strawberries are particularly low in calories: They’re almost a freebie with the chocolate—and you can dip your own at home.
Chocolate-Covered Expresso Beans: The crunch of the roasted beans and the added caffeine make this confection popular among coffee lovers.
Chocolate-Covered Nuts & Seeds: Whatever nut you choose, you’re getting a hit of protein, fiber and healthy fats. Ditto with sunflower seeds. Look for artisan brands or head to your local chocolatier or natural foods retailer for a 70% cacao coating. Mass-market brands (Hershey’s, Nestlé, Mars, etc.) use high-sugar chocolate coatings. Still, in a choice between Goobers and a Milky Way, pick the Goobers.
York Peppermint Patties: We always have a Costco-size box of these on hand, and grab two or three when we need a chocolate fix. You can also melt them into a no-sugar-added hot chocolate or a glass of microwaved hot milk. The chocolate is both darker and higher quality than that of Junior Mints. While the York brand is now owned by Hershey’s, it has maintained the chocolate coating that its fans love.
BEST CHOCOLATE CHOICES
BEST HARD CANDIES
Nutritionist Joy Bauer recommends hard candies, “because they automatically pace you. They take a while to finish (as long as you suck or lick, not chomp!), so you get to savor the sweetness for a bit and stretch your sugar calories.
“As long as you limit yourself to a few pieces, you can’t do that much damage,” she concludes.
Joy’s comments on her favorites in the category:
Atomic Fireballs: Unlike some addictive sugary candies that you can swallow by the handful, Atomic Fireballs are a great “one and done” candy option. They’re hard as a rock, so you can’t bite through them; and after you finish one flaming sucker, you’ll be ready to give your mouth a rest. One large, individually-wrapped Fireball has only 35 calories.
Lifesavers and Jolly Ranchers: Fruity Lifesavers have 15 calories, Jolly Rancher has 23 calories. Both are available in a wide variety of flavors.
See’s Gourmet Lollypops: In butterscotch, café latte, chocolate and vanilla, they’re 80 to 90 calories apiece.
Smarties: These have just 25 calories for an entire roll, a calorie bargain! (Note: It’s a skinny roll.)
Australian or European Licorice: Unlike American brands, there is no HFCS or artificial flavors in Australian and most European licorice (they spell it liquorice). We don’t like the artificial-tasting domestic product, but we can’t get enough of brands like Kookaburra.
Florida’s Natural Au’some Treats: Joy Bauer likes Florida’s Natural Au’some Nuggets and Sour Strings because they’re made with more than 60% real fruit and fruit juices. A bonus: They come in pre-portioned, 50-calorie pouches. “These fruit chews are a terrific step up from sugary gummy bears and traditional fruit snacks,” she says.
Yummy Earth Sour Worms: These sugarcoated worms are made with organic fruit juice instead of high-fructose corn syrup. While “sour” means less sugar, note that sour candies have more acid (the “sour”), which can erode tooth enamel. So don’t eat to many; and if you can, brush afterward.
BEST CHEWY CHOICES
WHAT ABOUT SUGAR-FREE CANDY?
 For licorice lovers, Australian liquorice and European brands are better bets than American licorice (photo courtesy Kookaburra Licorice).
 Chocolate lovers: Chocolate-covered nuts are a better choice than chocolate bars (photo of chocolate- and cocoa-covered almonds courtesy Charles Chocolates).
 The best choice may be chocolate-covered strawberries: low-calorie fruit and a thin coating of chocolate (photo courtesy Balducci’s).
 The chocolate coating on York Peppermint Patties is very good, and two or three minis do the track (photo courtesy Hershey’s).
 Coffee lover? These coffee-coated espresso beans (photo courtesy Superior Nut Store).