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Our nutrition experts share their favorite low-sugar and low-calorie picks.
Picture 60 pounds of sugar. That’s the amount the average American eats in just one year according to the American Heart Association! Most Americans consume on average about 77 grams of sugar daily, which is more than three times the recommended limit for women. While satisfying your sweet tooth is seriously necessary at times — and we believe in moderation and balance over restriction any day — watching your added sugar intake is an important part of healthy living.
While it’s certainly delicious, there is actually no nutritional need for white table sugar; it contributes zero nutrients and provides added empty calories. What’s more, table sugar may give you a quick dose of energy in the form of a blood sugar surge that only comes crashing down. This drastic drop in energy, aka the classic “sugar crash,” can lead to symptoms like hunger, irritability, fatigue, headaches and more. Research shows that consuming too much of the sweet stuff can increase chronic inflammation and even raise the risk of serious health problems like diabetes, certain cancers and even heart disease.
But there are some low-sugar options that are a good choice when you want something sweet. Registered dietitians in the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab have evaluated hundreds of treats to find the best of the best in terms of nutrition and taste. Our pros looked for lower-sugar options that are made with thoughtful ingredients, prioritizing picks that are free from artificial flavors and additives. We even recruited real-life testers to help analyze flavor profiles, textures and more. You’ll love these healthier treats that are sure to satisfy any sweet tooth. Here are the best healthier candy alternatives of 2022, according to experts.
A staff favorite, these whole fruit gummies are made with fruit and vitamin C – that’s it. They are free from added sugars or artificial coloring, and each yummy pouch has one whole serving of fruit. Plus, they’re vegan and organic. “Love these!” said one of our testers. “They have the same consistency as a candy fruit snack. Loved how chewy they were, and the mango flavor had a great sweet taste. My five-year-old liked them too!”
Nutrition facts (per pouch): 60 calories, 0 g total fat, 13 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 0 g protein
JoJo’s Original 70% dark chocolate bars are covered with pistachios, almonds, and cranberries for a great texture and flavor combination with a dose of healthy fats and antioxidants. They’re low in sugar, free from gluten and soy and fortified with hemp protein, making them a super satisfying sweet treat. They have a simple ingredient list that comes together with a crunchy deliciousness you can feel good about eating.
Nutrition facts (per bar): 180 calories, 13 g total fat, 11 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 5 g protein
Lily’s is known for its no-sugar-added chocolate treats, and these cups are especially delicious with their creamy peanut butter filling. Sweetened with stevia, this treat is also gluten-free, fair trade certified and made with non-GMO ingredients. The peanut butter gives it a little boost of fiber and protein too. One of our testers said, “For someone who is diabetic, they’re a great treat!” Another said, “They totally satisfied my sweet tooth without the added sugar.”
Nutrition facts (per two pieces): 140 calories, 12 g total fat, 14 g carbs, 7 g fiber, <1 g sugar, 95 mg sodium, 3 g protein
Another staff favorite, our editors and analysts love the great variety of products and thoughtful ingredients from Unreal. Our nutrition pros especially appreciate the use of fair trade chocolate and that the candies are free from sugar alcohols. They are all Non-GMO Project verified too. There are dark chocolate coconut bars, peanut butter and almond butter cups (some of those have crispy quinoa for a nice crunch), dark chocolate quinoa gems and more.
Nutrition facts (per dark chocolate coconut bar): 70 calories, 5 g total fat, 8 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, <1g protein
This brand is another staff favorite: You can hear the cheers when samples of their chocolate-covered almonds and cashews arrive at our offices. Now the company has branched out into these low-sugar dark chocolate bars, which are made with a simple list of ingredients you can pronounce and contain no sugar alcohols or stevia. One tester said about the salted caramel bar: “I love the sweet-and-salty flavor in this bar! It was very satisfying — I think because it actually has fiber in it.”
Nutrition facts (per serving, 2.5 servings per bar): 110 calories, 9 g total fat, 14 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 30 mg sodium, 2 g protein
Alter Eco is known for its organic, low-sugar fair trade chocolate in earth-friendly packaging, and this assortment of 60 almond butter and hazelnut butter bombs contains no gluten or sugar alcohols. They’re keto-friendly (only 2 net carbs per bomb), USDA organic, creamy and covered with 80% cacao. Our nutrition pros also like that the wrappers are compostable.
Nutrition facts (per two pieces): 160 calories, 8 g total fat, 8 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 1 g protein
This better-for-you take on the classic crispy chocolate wafer uses fair trade chocolate and is free from artificial flavors or colors. It’s just as delicious sans the corn syrup and hydrogenated oils of some other candies, and it has about 30% less sugar than the traditional stuff. The hint of sea salt is the perfect complement to the gourmet chocolate. Each individual pack comes with two wafers.
Nutrition facts (per package): 200 calories, 14 g total fat, 19 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 14 g sugar, 45 mg sodium, 2 g protein
Who’s going to argue with the magic combo of caramel + almonds + dark chocolate? These gluten-free and grain-free treats are low in sugar and low carb as well, making them popular in the keto community. Testers raved about the great flavor pairing and gooey-ness, and our experts love that a serving packs in 8 grams of filling fiber.
Nutrition facts (per piece): 110 calories, 9 g total fat, 17 g carbs, 8 g fiber, <1 g sugar, 70 mg sodium, 2 g protein
These seriously delicious gummies, bears and rings are plant-based and vegan and have only 3 grams of sugar and 60 calories per bag. They’re made without sugar alcohol and inulin, and pack a lot of fiber into each bag (but our dietitians say because of the high fiber, it’s best to stick to no more than one bag a day). One tester’s comment: “The sour worms were my favorite! Great consistency and flavor. I like that they’re so low in sugar and calories too.”
Nutrition facts (per bag of sour gummy worms): 60 calories, 0 total fat, 37 g carbs, 18 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 90 mg sodium, 0 protein
These dairy-free caramels (made with creamy coconut milk) have no corn syrup and are USDA organic too. Each piece has only about 2 g sugar — plus they’re gluten-free with no artificial ingredients. And they have that wonderful sweet-and-salty thing going for them. Testers raved about them, one saying they were, “addictive — and vegan!”
Nutrition facts (per 3 pieces): 60 calories, 2 g total fat, 9 g carbs, <1 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 60 mg sodium, 0 g protein
Smart Sweets have no sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners or added sugar. No fake colors either: The vivid hues come from fruit and veggie juices! This choice is also high in fiber, so our dietitians say it’s best to stick to no more than one bag a day. Enjoy remakes of your childhood favorites like sweet fish, peach rings, sour watermelon candies and more.
Nutrition facts (per pouch, Sweet Fish): 100 calories, 0 g total fat, 42 g carbs, 13 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 70 mg sodium, 0 g protein
This brand of organic, allergy-friendly sweets is free of the top eight allergens and has no high fructose corn syrup or artificial dyes. The fun flavors include pomegranate, mango, strawberry and watermelon, and they’re organic, gluten-free, kosher and vegan. “My kids love these,” said one tester, “and I feel good about giving the pops to them since they have no artificial dyes.”
Nutrition facts (per two pops): 45 calories, 0 g total fat, 11 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 0 g protein
This company makes gluten-free, plant-based, certified vegan treats that are seriously delicious. Each square is made with organic 72% dark chocolate and has less than 3 grams of sugar. We love that they’re topped with crunchy, chewy, toasted cacao nibs and come in flavors like tart cherry, mint, blueberry and sea salt. One tester added, “They’re perfectly portioned for snacking!”
Nutrition facts (per 3 squares of dark chocolate): 130 calories, 11 g total fat, 11 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 100 mg sodium, 2 g protein