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.
Almond Joy Egg
With coconut’s health halo, it’s tempting to view these treats as health food. And coconut does contain high amounts of essential minerals (copper, iron and manganese) as well as phytosterols. The facts, however, speak for themselves. Although nicely portion controlled, the almond joy egg contains 150 calories, 14 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of fat. On the plus side, it also has 1 gram of fiber and 1 gram of protein, and delivers 4 percent of your daily iron needs.
Easter Egg Tootsie Pop
Remember the quotable commercial, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?” Well, you can experiment at Easter with an egg-shaped lollipop in the spring. Although the treat is 100 percent sugar, it contains only 60 calories per serving, so it’s not going to burst the button your pants. (What do eggs have to do with Easter anyway?)
Dove Chocolate Dark Chocolate Eggs
If you go for the antioxidant-rich dark chocolate, you’ll also save on sugar. Five pieces contain about 180 calories, 16 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of fat. Bonus aspects of this treat—3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, and about 6 percent of your daily iron needs.
The most challenging issue with M&Ms is portion control. Purchasing a large bag of the Easter-colored treats and placing them in a decorative bowl on the coffee table is a recipe for disaster. Even the small bags (1.69 ounces) contain up to 240 calories with 30 grams of sugar and 12 grams of fat—about the same as a slice of chocolate cream pie! Choosing the dark chocolate version for some antioxidants, or the nut-filled version for some protein may boost the nutritional content a morsel. It all comes down to how many handfuls you eat. If you like a little crunch and salt with your chocolate, choose the pretzel M&Ms—only 150 calories and 4.5 grams of fat, but still a crazy-high 17 grams of sugar (sigh). Thinking of adding M&Ms to your ice cream? These are the best and worst ice cream toppers.
York Peppermint Patty
Because they’re individually wrapped and therefore portion controlled, these treats may appear to be a healthy choice. Unfortunately, one patty contains 140 calories and a staggering 25 grams of sugar, similar to an entire ice cream sandwich. The dark chocolate seems like an asset, but only the coating is dark chocolate, so the small hit of antioxidants doesn’t balance the rest of the junk.
Lindt Chocolate Carrots
One package includes three cute milk chocolate carrot-shapes wrapped in orange foil. Hazelnuts are listed on the ingredient list, but there aren’t enough to reap the nutritional rewards of the nuts. One carrot contains only 73 calories, 6 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of fat. But, keep in mind that if you eat the three-pack (which you probably will—who are we kidding?), you’re tripling your sugar and fat. We know that’s not necessarily a tradition of the Easter holiday.
Candy Coated Chocolate Eggs
These are basically like super-sized M&Ms. If you can limit yourself to just four, that’s only 90 calories, 12.5 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of fat. You can almost call it a healthier option with the nutritional bonus of 2 grams of protein, 6 percent calcium, and 6 percent iron.
Positive points of this Easter classic are the built-in portion control, plus 2 grams of protein and 4 percent of your daily calcium provided. Negatives include a whopping 20 grams of sugar and 150 calories in a small treat. If you love them, stick with one, since they are only available during Easter season.
Cute, but loaded with sugar at 33 grams, making up most of the 180 calories in a single package. The best part of this treat, if there can be a best part, is the built-in portion control. Better still, divide it up over a few days to spread out the calorie splurge.
Gummy Flowers or Bunnies
Instead of traditional gummy bears, this time of year, you can find Easter-themed gummy flowers, bunnies, and butterflies. As with Jelly Beans, these candies are almost pure sugar. One ounce contains 84 calories with 13 grams of sugar, which compared to some other Easter candies could be worse. Annie’s Homegrown brand offers an organic version of gummy candies in bunny shapes, providing aslightly lower calorie and sugar load (70 calories and 11 grams of sugar per ounce).
Picture pink marshmallow-flavored crème sandwiched between vanilla cookies. Just two Peeps Oreos contains 140 calories, 12 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of fat. As with any cookie made with enriched wheat flour, you can get a small amount (4 percent) of your daily iron needs met with these treats. In the end, these Oreos are just another dessert.
Dove Springtime Chocolate Mix
These varied shaped chocolates—milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate with caramel—wrapped in springtime foil colors would look adorable in a candy dish on your desk. And they do contain 2 grams of protein and deliver 4 percent of your daily calcium needs. The bad news: Five pieces contain a prohibitive 200 calories with 19 grams of sugar and 12 grams of fat.
Ghiradelli “Noe” the Milk Chocolate Bunny
An adorable white bunny of the decadent and famous Ghiradelli chocolate may be one of the most coveted Easter basket gifts around. And the most fattening. No joke. Noe is packed with 540 calories, 60 grams of sugar, and 33 grams of fat—more fat than a McDonald’s Big Mac! The small amount of calcium and iron are certainly not worth the fat explosion. (Here’s how bunnies became synonymous with Easter.)
Another sugar-laden confection are those multi-flavored jelly beans. Just 20 jelly treats contain 140 calories with 100 percent coming from the 35 grams of sugar, which is equivalent to a 12-ounce can of soda. Handfuls of the treat add up quickly, and it’s too easy to eat them mindlessly. Take a small bowl or skip them altogether. (Don’t miss our list on the best jelly bean flavors, ranked.)
Sugar Bomb. Traditionally yellow, but now available in a wide variety of colors, these marshmallow chick-shaped treats are essentially 100 percent sugar. Two Peeps will set you back 55 calories and 13 grams of sugar. Folks seem to love them or hate them. If you love them, stick with just a couple and be done with it!
Some of my favorite Easter treats are the malted milk-filled candy-coated eggs available at Easter. Buying an entire bag is torture for me, so I look for smaller portion-controlled containers in the store. Just eight little Robins eggs contain 180 calories and 29 grams of sugar—that’s double the sugar in one chocolate cream-filled doughnut! The 6 percent of daily calcium isn’t enough to justify that amount of sugar. (This is why eggs are associated with Easter.)