I want candy! Here's the best and worst candy to satisfy your sweet tooth

Keri Glassman, R.D.
·5 min read

“I… want candy!” Admit it, that song has played in your head a bunch of times as you dreamed of what candy you were going to indulge in? I get it! I promise I do. I love sweets. In fact, I usually say that I don’t have a sweet tooth; I have a whole mouth of sweet teeth. So, yes, I’m a dietitian and I like sweets — consciously, that is.

A conscious indulgence is something I talk a lot about, especially as it relates to candy and sweets. There is a time and a place to indulge. The key is to find the healthiest version of the treat that best satisfies your craving (rather than trying to eat around the craving), so you don’t end up consuming more than if you’d just indulged in what you really wanted in the first place.

Here’s a list of some of the best and worst candy for when you just can’t get that song — or craving — out of your head.

Best Candy

Tootsie Pop

How many licks does it take? Well, if you use a little patience, it’s a lot. And that means you may be very satisfied with your chosen indulgence. It’s the portion control of a Tootsie Pop that puts it on this list.

The sugar stats: 10 grams sugar, 60 calories per serving (3 pops). This lollipop will make those 10 grams of sugar last a long time in candy land!

Related: From dark chocolate to fruit leather, these healthy, budget-friendly snack foods will satisfy your sweet tooth.

HU Chocolate-Covered Hunks Almonds + Sea Salt

You can think of this as your uber upgraded version of peanut M&M's. The first ingredient is almonds followed by organic cacao — two things that make my nutritionist’s heart smile. For comparison, the ingredient list on a package of M&M's begins with sugar and is also, of course, loaded with artificial coloring. You’ll find all clean ingredients in Hu chocolate.

The sugar stats: 4 grams sugar, 90 calories (in 1 ounce — about a small handful). This is a conscious indulgence you can feel a little extra good about.

Project 7 Gummy Bears

Where are my gummy candy people? This one’s for you. Project 7 Gummy Bears contain 3 grams of sugar for a 1.7-ounce bag, that’s about 87% less than the traditional kind. They’re also made without artificial sweeteners, using allulose instead. This is a new-ish ingredient to the market and research is still being done, but preliminary research is looking good for this sugar alternative. When you purchase this candy you’re also making a positive impact — proceeds go to seven areas in need.

The sugar stats: 3 grams sugar, 60 calories (22 gummy bears). The low sugar content will make you feel better giving these to the kids too.

Related: Nutritionists share their best and worst list from TODAY's sugary showdown, the Bracketween challenge.

Justin’s Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

I’ve never met a PB and chocolate combo I didn’t like, but this one is at the top of the list. This is your better-for-you version of a Reese’s. Justin’s uses organic dark chocolate and peanuts, as well as sustainably sourced palm fruit oil.

The sugar stats: 16 grams of sugar, 220 calories (2 per pack). Why not share with a friend? You’ll still get that sweet fix!

Worst

Skittles

A sugar and food coloring bomb is what this old-school favorite is going to give you. Skittles have 47 grams of sugar in a pack, which isn’t surprising as the first two ingredients on the label are sugar and corn syrup. They also contain hydrogenated palm kernel oil aka trans fats, which are the worst kind of fats for your body.

Sugar stats: 47 grams of sugar, 250 calories (a 2.17-ounce bag)

Starbursts

When you can’t pronounce most of the product’s ingredients, it’s safe to say you probably shouldn’t eat it. There is just no nutritional value here, friends — zero grams of dietary fiber, no protein and high in sugar. Similar to Skittles, Starbursts packs 34 grams of sugar in that package that you end up eating before the movie even starts.

The sugar stats: 34 grams of sugar, 240 calories (a 2.07-ounce pack)

Airheads

Sugar, corn syrup, maltodextrin, dextrose, modified food starch (corn), partially hydrogenated soybean oil — sound yummy? Those are the main ingredients in Airheads. Aside from the scary ingredient list, gummy candy, in general, is particularly bad for you (as far as sugar goes) because the candy gets stuck in between your teeth, which then feeds decay-causing bacteria. Also, many of these types of candies are acidic, which is a problem for tooth enamel. The sugar stats below may look similar to Tootsie Pops, but when you compare serving size and these spooky ingredients, Tootsie Pops come out on top.

The sugar stats: 9 grams of sugar, 60 calories (a 0.55-ounce bar)

Snickers

Snickers may have won TODAY's 2020 Bracketween challenge, but this sugar and fat combo is the worst mix you can indulge in. A recent study found that sugar and fat together have a “supra-additive effect” on the pleasure center of our brain, which explains why we can’t just eat one. These foods literally make us feel good. So, a Snickers may satisfy you, but it isn’t going to win any health awards.

Aside from all the sugar it contains, a single bar has 16 grams of fat — with 6.4 grams of that being trans fats. These artificial fats not only raise your "bad" cholesterol and lower your "good" cholesterol, they can cause inflammation and a spike in C-reactive protein, which may ultimately increase your risk of a heart attack, according to some studies. Yikes!

The sugar stats: 30 grams sugar, 280 calories (a 1.86-ounce bar)