Healthy Valentine’s Day Candy?

Healthy candy? Well, no, candy is never going to join fresh produce and whole grains on a list of health foods. However, some candy is worse for you than other candy.

If you’re going to have candy for Valentine’s Day, consider going with candy that has greater nutritional value — even if it’s just not quite as bad. 

  1. Dark chocolate should be your top choice. With 70% cocoa, you’ll get 3 grams of protein, 13 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of fat. You’ll also get 3 grams of fiber, plus minerals and flavonoids.
  2. 12 peanut M&Ms give you 3 grams of protein, 15 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of fat. You’ll get 1 gram of fiber and 2% of your daily potassium.
  3. 2 fun-size Snickers bars give you 3 grams of protein, 17 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of fat. 1 gram of fiber, too.
  4. 1 serving of old-fashioned bridge mix gives you 2 grams of protein, 8 grams of fat, and 22 grams of sugar. You’ll get 1 gram of fiber. Not familiar with bridge mix? It’s chocolate-covered nuts and raisins — basically chocolate-covered trail mix.
  5. 1 peanut butter cup provides 2 grams of protein, 7 grams of fat, and 10 grams of sugar. You’ll also get 1 gram of fiber.

You might see a pattern here: adding nuts and fruit to candy balances the sugar a little bit. The fat in these candies is mostly from the nuts themselves (healthy fat) or from the chocolate. Dark chocolate contains monounsaturated fats (like the healthy fat in olive oil) and stearic acid, a saturated fat which the body converts to monounsaturated fat. Milk chocolate also contains milk fat.

Unhealthy candy

Our relatively healthy candies give you some protein and fiber with your sugar. What about just sugary candies?

  • 10 jelly beans give you no protein, fiber, or fat, and 20 grams of sugar.
  • 10 gummy bears? Again, no protein, fat, or fiber, but 13 grams of sugar. Conversation hearts are the same.
  • Hershey’s kisses are the most popular Valentine’s Day candy in Arkansas, but they’re not as nutritious as dark chocolate. With two grams of protein and 9 grams of fat, they also have 18 grams of sugar and no fiber.

With any candy choice, you’re looking at double digits in grams of sugar, low protein and fiber, and maybe a little bit of fat. But you might find 12 peanut M&Ms more satisfying than 10 gummy bears, so the relatively healthier candies can be a better bargain for your Valentine’s Day treats.

Whatever candy you pick for yourself and your kids, think about getting just enough to celebrate the day. The National Retail Foundation estimates that Americans spend $1.6 billion on candy for this special day…that probably means they’ll have candy hanging around for the rest of the month!

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