We know candy’s not good for us. It is, after all, processed, filled with sugar, and packed with hard-to-read ingredients and artificial dyes. But, the low calorie count on some fat-free candy, combined with marketers’ promises that certain candies (like chocolate) might actually have legitimate health benefits, can make one wonder if it’s healthy to indulge.
Courtney Sullivan, a dietician, personal trainer, and founder of Nutrition for Body and Mind, answered some of our fat-free candy questions, and (ahem) didn’t sugar-coat the answers.
Candy is often low in calories. Is it a low-fat snack?
Candy is high in simple sugar, and even though it says “fat-free,” it does not mean that you won’t gain weight while eating it. Highly refined sugar that provides little to no nutrition can be turned into and stored as fat in your body if it is not utilized. Empty sugars can also increase your LDL (bad cholesterol), which can also increase your risk of heart disease.
Is all chocolate good for me?
No. Much “chocolate” has been processed and contains fillers and preservatives. You need at least 65-70% cacao-containing dark chocolate for it to have a nutritional benefit (some of these are rich in antioxidant value and have cancer-fighting properties).
If you are going to eat chocolate, you should always eat it in moderation. 1 ounce per day (or every other day) is sufficient. You do not need an entire chocolate bar.
Any suggestions for healthy candies or alternatives?
- Dark chocolate-covered almonds with sea salt
- Dark chocolate-covered blueberries
- Organic ginger chews
- Frozen blueberries or grapes covered in Greek yogurt that you can make at home!
What should a girl do if she has irrepressible candy cravings?
Focus on eating small, frequent meals that are balanced with a source of lean protein, whole grain carbohydrate, and fresh fruits or vegetables. The added fiber and protein will increase your satiety (feeling of fullness) and reduce sugar cravings. Oftentimes, when you crave excess sugar, your body is telling you it did not get enough nutrients (quality protein or fruits and vegetables). Also, you may be thirsty (not hungry) so drinking adequate fluids throughout the day (water, coconut water, ginger or herbal tea, etc.) to stay hydrated is crucial.
Remember these tips next time that fat-free candy is calling your name!