While all types of candy contain sugar, and they may not be the most nutrient-dense snacks you can choose, some choices are better than others.
Just about any food, including candy bars, can be incorporated into a nutritious and balanced diet in moderation — especially when you choose healthy candy bars.
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How We Chose
Traditional candy bars you may find in the checkout aisle typically have minimal fiber, vitamins, minerals or other quality nutrients. Plus, they're often loaded with added sugars.
To help us pick the healthiest candy bars, we spoke to dietitians and chose products based on the following criteria:
- Nutritional profile: We looked for items that are lower in calories and sugar than traditional candy bars, and those that offered other health benefits like fiber and antioxidants.
- Ingredients: We looked for mostly whole-food ingredients you can recognize, with a shorter list being better.
- Taste: We, of course, wanted candy bars that taste good, so you actually want to eat them.
- Availability: We wanted these candy bars to be able to be purchased at common stores or online so that everyone can access them no matter where they live.
So, next time you're looking for healthy candy bars, consider keeping the following list in mind:
1. Unreal Dark Chocolate Coconut Bars
Nutritional info per serving (1 bar): 70 calories, 5 g total fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 8 g carbs (3 g sugar), <1 g protein
Unreal's motto is to create snacks that you can eat and feel good about.
These low-sugar candy bars contain just three simple ingredients: coconut, organic cassava syrup and dark chocolate. They boast no artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. They're also non-GMO and gluten-free.
2. Zolli Peanut Butter Cups
Nutritional info per serving (1 peanut butter cup): 60 calories, 5 g total fat (3 g saturated fat), 8 g carbs (0 g sugar), 1 g protein
Zolli Candy was created out of a desire to make candy that wasn't bad for your teeth. Instead of relying on sugar, Zolli is sweetened with xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol that helps prevent cavities, according to a November 2014 study in the Journal of Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dentistry.
Like all Zolli candy, these peanut butter cups are vegan and gluten-free. They are also keto- and allergy-friendly and are naturally flavored.
With only 8 grams of carbs per serving, they may also be amongst the lowest-carb candy bars out there. Bonus: Each serving has 2 grams of fiber.
3. Endangered Species Extreme Dark Chocolate Bites
Nutritional info per serving (2 pieces): 120 calories, 9 g total fat (6 g saturated fat), 8 g carbs (2 g sugar), 2 g protein
These single-serve bites are made with 88 percent cocoa, which is considered extra-dark. Dark chocolate boasts many important nutrients like zinc, magnesium and antioxidants, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
It's also linked to a lower risk of heart disease, insulin resistance and high blood pressure, per the American Heart Association. That's thanks to the flavonoids chocolate contains, which are plant compounds that serve as antioxidants, according to the December 2016 study in the Journal of Nutritional Science.
4. Smart Sweets Sweet Fish
Nutritional info per serving (50 g bag): 100 calories, 0 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 42 g carbs (3 g sugar), 0 g protein
Smart Sweets takes familiar gummy candy and makes it more nutritious by cutting back on the sugar content by about 92 percent compared to similar candy and then adding in fiber. The result provides almost 50 percent of your daily fiber needs in one bag.
Fiber's benefits include supporting gut and digestive health, heart health, blood sugar control and more.
These sweet fish contain no added sugar, no artificial sweeteners and no sugar alcohols — a combination that's nearly unheard of in the candy world. Instead, they're sweetened with allulose, a unique type of sugar that isn't metabolized by the body, so it has almost no calories. This low-sugar candy is also naturally flavored and colored and free from allergens.
5. Lily’s Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Bar
Nutritional info per serving (30 g): 130 calories, 11 g total fat (6 g saturated fat), 17 g carbs (0 g sugar), 2 g protein
"This bar is my absolute favorite," says Heather Ayala, RD, CKNS. "Sugar-free and only uses erythritol and stevia, this chocolate bar is decadent and satisfying without the spike in blood sugar caused by similar flavors on the market. I like to eat this bar one piece at a time, savoring it by allowing it to melt in my mouth."
Prebiotics are fuel for probiotics and support a healthy microbiome, according to the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health. This can help provide a slew of health benefits including improved bowel habits, reduced side effects from antibiotics and much more.
6. Little Secrets Mini Crispy Wafers
Nutritional info per serving (3 mini wafers): 170 calories, 13 g total fat (6 g saturated fat), 12 g carbs (8 g sugar), 2 g protein
Little Secrets claims to be "everything you love about chocolate, made better." Many of their products contain about 30 percent less sugar than comparable candies.
Little Secrets products are also Fairtrade and non-GMO, and use ingredients you are familiar with. The mini dark chocolate crispy wafers taste similar to a Kit Kat bar, but with significantly fewer carbs and sugar. They also give you 2 grams of fiber per serving.
7. Lindt Excellence 90% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Bar
Nutritional info per serving (3 pieces-30g): 200 calories, 16 g total fat (10 g saturated fat), 9 g carbs (2 g sugar), 4 g protein
Lindt is a famous chocolate brand that has been around for almost 150 years, and its Excellence line has some wonderfully rich dark chocolates.
"The 70 percent cacao bar is a great introduction to the world of very dark chocolate, and they have bars with up to 100 percent cacao," Ayala says. These low-carb chocolate bars are made with only five simple ingredients and contain only 2 grams of sugar per serving.
8. Thrive Market’s Paleo Dark Chocolate Bar
Nutritional info per serving (1 oz): 168 calories, 12 g total fat (7 g saturated fat), 11 g carbs (4 g sugar), 3 g protein
"Thrive Market is known for its healthy options, and its branded chocolate bars are no exception. You need a membership to order these gems, but the quality and taste can not be overstated," Ayala says.
"My favorite of their collection is the Organic Paleo Dark Chocolate, which boasts 85 percent cacao and is made with only two ingredients: organic cacao and organic coconut sugar." This low-sugar chocolate bar is also organic, vegan, gluten-free and ethically sourced.
9. Alter Eco Raspberry Blackout Bar
Nutritional info per serving (4 sections): 190 calories, 16 g total fat (10 g saturated fat), 11 g carbs (4 g sugar), 2 g protein
Like many of the other bars on this list, these chocolate bites are low on the sugar scale with just 4 grams per serving. This Blackout bar is made with 85 percent cacao and combines the benefits of dark chocolate with the tart-yet-sweet taste of raspberry.
The bars have the added benefits of being organic with no artificial ingredients. They're also Fairtrade and provide 4 grams of filling fiber per serving.
10. Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Nutritional info per serving (1 pack of 2 peanut butter cups): 220 calories, 14 g total fat (7 g saturated fat), 20 g carbs (16 g sugar), 4 g protein
Peanut butter cups may be one of the most classic candy bars. Justin's puts a healthier spin on traditional peanut butter cups by using certified organic and mindfully sourced ingredients that you can recognize.
With 4 grams of satiating protein per serving, they may also help you feel fuller than lower-protein candy bars would.
- Harvard School of Public Health: "Dark Chocolate"
- American Heart Association: "Added Sugars"
- The effect of xylitol on dental caries and oral flora
- Are there health benefits of dark chocolate?
- Flavanoids: an overview
- What is allulose?
- Harvard School of Public Health: the Microbiome
- Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms of High-Protein Diet-Induced Weight Loss