The bad news is, there's no such thing as the healthiest candy bar. Candy bars are full of sugar and other junk that can make you gain weight and damage your health. If you want to indulge every once in a while, here are your "least unhealthy" choices ranked from best to worst.
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Three Top-of-the-Line Picks
This first category is actually an exception to the rule, depending on the type you choose. Dark chocolate is generally lower in sugar than other types of candy bars and provides antioxidants, zinc, magnesium and iron, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Your healthiest candy bar choice is a dark chocolate bar that is high in cocoa content, low in sugar and as minimally processed as possible. Alter Eco's Organic Super Blackout Bar is 90 percent cocoa with only 3 grams of sugar per serving. With only 6 grams of net carbs, this is one of the lowest carb candy bars around.
If you prefer something a little less dark, Alter Eco's Sea Salt Bar is 70 percent cocoa and has 12 grams of sugar per serving. Whatever your preference, Harvard recommends choosing a bar that has at least 70 percent cacao. And, avoid dark chocolate bars that include other sugary ingredients like caramel.
Another one of the healthiest chocolate bars is Unreal's Dark Chocolate Coconut Bar which contains just three ingredients: coconut, organic cassava syrup and dark chocolate. It doesn't get much simpler than that. Each serving contains just 3 grams of sugar; however, one serving is only 15 grams — about less than half as much as Alter Eco bars.
Three Middle-of-the-Road Choices
You can enjoy a square or two of dark chocolate any day of the week, with a cup of black coffee as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up or in the evening in place of more decadent desserts. Not so with this group of candy bars. Higher in sugar and calories, these are in the "occasional treat" category. Even dark chocolate bars with the addition of sugary confections belong in this category.
For example, Equal Exchange's organic, Dark Chocolate Caramel Crunch bar has 19 grams of sugar per serving. That's 76 calories from sugar. The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than 100 calories from added sugars per day and men consume no more than 150 calories from added sugars daily. But it's still a better choice than the majority of other candy bars on the market.
Also a better choice is Ocho Organic Coconut Candy Bar. Made with clean ingredients, it contains 190 calories and 12 grams of added sugar. It also provides 3 grams fiber, which can help slow the digestion of the sugars to prevent sharp spikes in blood sugar. Ocho's Peanut Butter Bar is another decent choice with 15 grams of added sugar, but 2 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein to balance things out.
Read more: The 11 Best "Clean" Dark Chocolate Bars
Four Over-the-Edge Options
Basically, any of the candy bars that you see in vending machines, supermarket checkout lines and convenience stores are sugar and fat bombs. Make no mistake, these offer no nutritional benefits, and are in the "very occasional treat" category. Like, once a year. Ideally, you'd skip them altogether.
But if you must indulge, registered dietitian Meredith Price ranks these as the least unhealthy of the bunch. As she reported to HuffPost, these are relatively low in sugar and saturated fats and contain no trans fats:
It's not really the fat and calories that matter, though. It's what the treat offers for those fat and calories. Checkout candy bars typically have no fiber, vitamins, minerals or other nutrients to speak of. You might consume equal amounts of calories and fats in a dark chocolate bar, but you'll be getting at least a little nutritional bang for your buck.
- Harvard School of Public Health: "Dark Chocolate"
- Alter Eco: "Deepest Dark Super Blackout"
- Alter Eco: "Deep Dark Sea Salt"
- Unreal: "Dark Chocolate Coconut Bars"
- Equal Exchange: "Organic Dark Chocolate Caramel Crunch With Sea Salt (55% Cacao)"
- American Heart Association: "Added Sugars"
- Ocho Organic Candy: "Coconut"
- Ocho Organic Candy: "Peanut Butter"
- HuffPost: "The Healthiest Candy Bars, Ranked by Nutritionists"
- USDA: "Candies, Mars Snackfood US, Snickers Bar"
- USDA: "Twix, Cookie Bars"
- USDA: "Kit Kat"