The 26 Best and Worst Easter Candy Treats for Your Basket, Ranked by a Nutritionist
Obviously Easter candy isn’t health food, but some pastel picks are way junkier than others. Registered dietitian scores the popular springtime sweets on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst treat you can eat.
Seriously Dark Chocolate
Ghiradelli offers an 86% cacao chocolate variety that’s extremely low in sugar (1.3 grams per ounce) and relatively low in calories (60 per ounce) called “Intense Dark.” Several Italian companies have dark chocolate Easter eggs—Garoto Talento and Baci Perugina are two options to be on the lookout for. Rich in antioxidants and low in sugar, seriously dark chocolate is a seriously healthier choice. Check out this guide to having the ultimate Easter brunch.
Rice Krispie Easter Treats
Mini squares wrapped in spring colors can brighten up your Easter basket and set you back only 45 calories, fewer than 4 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of fat! Limiting yourself to just one may be a challenge, though. Ambitious enough to make your own Easter egg-shaped pastel Rice Krispie treats? Check the millions of recipes and pictures online for inspiration. These goodies are a healthier choice in the Easter candy aisle. Or consider making your own Easter desserts!
Bags of black jellybeans are some people’s favorite treat during Easter season. Black licorice contains several unique antioxidants, such as liquiritin, liquiritigenin, liquiritigenin, and glycyrrhizin. Five small pieces of licorice contain only 43 calories, less than 6 grams of sugar, and zero fat. Numerous health claims have been associated with licorice, however none are scientifically proven at this point. One thing we do know: Glycyrrhizic acid can negatively interact with several medications including the blood thinner Warfarin, and high blood pressure prescriptions. Black licorice can be a healthier Easter choice, if there aren’t any medicinal contraindications.
Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, almonds…. All of them come in chocolate-covered or pastel candy-coated varieties around Easter time. Not only festive to look at, these nutty treats provide some nutritional benefits, with protein, iron, fiber, and healthy fats from the nuts. Antioxidants are found in nuts as well—peanuts contain phytosterols, resveratrol, and flavonoids. Almonds contain many phytochemicals including catechin, resveratrol, polyphenols, flavonoids, and kaempferol. Sunflower seeds are exceptionally rich in vitamin E (you’ll get 90 percent of your daily dose in just one-quarter cup), as well as antioxidants such as phenolic acids, phytic acid, and phytosterols. Just one Brazil nut provides 160 percent of your daily dose of selenium, as well as phenolics and flavonoids. In a one-ounce portion, the best calorie bet is Chocolate Jordan Almonds in Pastel Sparkle with 125 calories. Sugar is lowest in the Brazil nuts, at 9 grams per ounce. Fat is lowest in the Jordan almonds (3 grams per ounce), but only because most the calories are from sugar (21 grams per ounce). Best choice: Chocolate covered Brazil nuts, but watch the portion size carefully. Halloween lovers–find out why we pass out candy in October.
Chocolate Covered Dried Fruit
Chocolate-covered dried berries are healthy, right? After all, berries are fruit! Although berries do contain flavonoids, resveratrol, and other antioxidants, they’d still be sold in the candy aisle. (Check out Nuts Deluxe Pastel Chocolate Berry Mix.) They’re also actually high in sugar and calories for fairly small serving sizes. One ounce contains between 130 and 140 calories with 17 grams of sugar. Trader Joe’s offers an antioxidant-rich dark chocolate covered pomegranate seed snack, which weighs in at 132 calories and 11 grams of sugar in a one-ounce portion. And, if you need another reason to snack on pomegranate seeds, they contain disease-fighting phytochemicals such as ellagic acid and anthocyanins. Chocolate-covered fruit provides a small amount of fiber (3 grams in the pomegranate seeds) and iron. Ambitious enough for a homemade dried fruit and dark chocolate treat? Nutritionally, the result is equivalent.
Sugar Coated Chickpeas
These Sugar Coated Chickpeas are a unique choice, indeed, although these may not be as exciting for the young Easter egg hunters in your life. One ounce of these chickpea treats has less than 1 gram of fat and just 112 calories. Although high in sugar (21 grams), the fiber and phytochemicals (isoflavones, lignans, inositol and others) in the chickpeas makes you feel a little better about the treat.
Fun-Size Candy Bars
Snickers, Milky Way, and 3 Musketeers are widely available with pastel foil wrapping to make them Easter worthy. Choosing the fun-size bar saves a chunk of calories and sugar. One fun-size 3 Musketeers contains only 63 calories, 10 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of fat. One fun-size Twix contains twice the calories (125) plus 8.5 grams of sugar. The same size Snickers and Milky Way are 80 calories, 8-10 grams of sugar, and 3-4 grams of fat. The peanuts in Snickers provide a bit of protein (2 grams). A lower risk option—one mini-Kit Kat bar, is only 42 calories, 4 grams of sugar and about 2 grams of fat. While not traditional Easter candies, these portion-controlled goodies are a somewhat healthier option than their full-size siblings.
Score depends on choice: 2-6
Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg
These eggs are not only portion controlled, but they even boast some actual nutrients. One egg contains 4 grams of protein, 1 gram of fiber, 4 percent of your daily iron needs, and 2 percent of your daily calcium needs. Perhaps that is enough justification for the 85 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 8.5 grams of sugar.
Sure, they only have about 20 to 25 calories each, but who eats only one? Even with the newer varieties of kisses available (white chocolate, nut-filled, caramel-filled), all kisses are quite similar nutritionally. For a bit of extra antioxidants, opt for the dark chocolate kiss. Dark chocolate contains polyphenols, flavonoids, quercetin, and theobromine, all of which are associated with reduced disease risk. The almond-filled kisses have slightly less sugar and more unsaturated fats. Hershey’s offers a cute plastic Easter chicken filled with kisses for a portion-controlled treat, containing 90 calories, 10 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of fat.
Jody’s Gourmet Easter Popcorn
Think caramel corn with springtime food coloring and you’re on target. Two ounces of this fun treat contains 220 calories, 18 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of fat. Naturally high in fiber, popcorn provides 2 grams per serving, certainly a plus.