The Worst Holiday Chocolates
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All year long I eat healthily, and then Christmas comes along and I turn into a candy-loving kid again. I’m like how you would say? A reverse Santa Claus. He stuffs kids’ stockings. I unstuff them — and then stuff my mouth.
Even those of us who don’t often eat candy find it hard to resist the minty, chocolatey goodness of the holidays, forgetting all about our plans for rapid weight loss. (Get me near a tin of chocolate bark and we turn into a woodchuck.)
But candy is unique in its ability to make us fat. Because it’s so high in sugar and devoid of fiber, candy gives us a much faster sugar rush than any food found in nature. As a result, our bodies can often overreact, pumping out more of the sugar-management hormone insulin than we need. Then two things happen, neither of them good: First, insulin grabs all of that sugar and looks for someplace to store it, most often as belly fat. And second, by stealing too much sugar from our systems, it creates a sugar crash: a sort of hunger rebound that sends us back to the party try for more chocolate bark.
So instead of going all Grinch on you, I took a hard look at the nutritional info on every sort of Christmas candy that might be rolling down your chimney this year and ranked them best to worst (comparing the nutritional profiles and quality of ingredients to equivalent serving sizes). Now, when you reach into the kids’ stockings, you’ll know you’re setting yourself up for a Merry Christmas, not a flabby New Year.
As a general rule avoid anything that’s labeled “made with chocolate,” “chocolaty,” or “chocolate-coated,” which indicate the presence of partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, harmful dyes like Yellow #5 and Red #40 and artificial flavoring. Cocoa’s waist-whittling effects do not extend to the fake stuff.
FIRST… THE WORST
PER 4 CANDIES (38 G): 190 calories, 12 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 75 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (1 g fiber, 20 g sugar), 3 g protein
Reese’s Bells, Reese’s Bells, Reese’s not all the way. Although there are a few on my Nice List, these guys are definitely naughty. Anything listed with partially hydrogenated oils AKA trans fat, which have been banned by the FDA, is a no-go.
DOVE PEPPERMINT BARK DARK CHOCOLATE SQUARES
PER 4 PIECES (40 G): 210 calories, 13 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 25 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (2 g fiber, 21 g sugar), 2 g protein
Although Dove advertises this product as a bark, there really just artificial dark chocolate bite squares. Even more disappointing is the presence of trans fat. Did I mention the first ingredient is sugar?
DOVE SILKY SMOOTH SNOWFLAKE PROMISES CHOCOLATE ASSORTMENT
PER 5 PIECES: 200 calories, 12 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 25 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (1 g fiber, 19 g sugar), 2 g protein
These Silky Smooth Snowflake Promises may be innocent when you eat just one, but after five you’re looking at 200 calories, 7 grams of saturated fat and 19 grams of sugar — that’s as much sugar as you’ll find in 10 Butterfinger BBs. And if you have any food allergies, avoid purchasing these snowflake chocolates at all costs. They’ve recently been recalled due to mysterious Snickers popping up inside their bags. If you’re a fan of the caramel nutty chocolate bars this may seem like a bonus, but for those suffering from any nut allergies, it should not be taken lightly.
KIT KAT HOLIDAY CANDY BARS
PER 1 FOUR PIECE BAR: 210 calories, 11 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 30 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (0 g fiber, 22 g sugar), 3 g protein
Unwrap one of Kit Kat’s cutesy holiday wafers and you’ll find Santa smiling back at you. You’ll also find 22 grams of processed sugar and 7 grams of saturated fat. Don’t even think about having more than one, unless you own a big red suit.
PER 6 PIECES: 210 calories, 11 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 55 mg sodium, 29 g carbs (0 g fiber, 24 g sugar), 2 g protein
Sadly the only thing that will be ringing when you pop these bell-shaped candies into your mouth is your blood sugar alarm. This is jingle hell. To easily burn off any of these candies — without spending hours in the gym.
HERSHEY’S CANDY CANE KISSES
PER 9 PIECES (42 G): 220 calories, 12 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 45 mg sodium, 27 g carbs (0 g fiber, 22 g sugar), 3 g protein
Hershey’s candy cane mint candies add antioxidant-rich and appetite-suppressing peppermint oil to the traditional milk chocolate kiss. But despite their potential weight loss ingredient, I can’t ignore the artificial dyes, words “artificial flavor” and corn syrup in their ingredient list (or the steep sugar and fat counts).
BRACH’S PEPPERMINT CHRISTMAS TREE NOUGATS
PER 41 G: 160 calories, 3 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 55 mg sodium, 35 g carbs (0 g fiber, 27 g sugar), 0 g protein
Although these Nougats are super low in fat, their first ingredient is corn syrup, followed by sugar and several artificial dyes.
ANDES PEPPERMINT CRUNCH CANDY
PER 4 PIECES: 200 calories, 12 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 25 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (0 g fiber, 21 g sugar), 2 g protein
“Andy’s Candies” was changed to “Andes Candies” after the chocolate’s creator discovered men were not too keen on giving their lovers candy with another man’s name on it. We’d avoid them for another reason: Just a few bites have more sugar than 10 jelly beans.
SEASONAL SWEETS MILK CHOCOLATE SANTAS
PER 6 PIECES: 220 calories, 12 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 22 g carbs (0 g fiber, 26 g sugar)
Chocolate and Santa are both 100% kid approved and since they’re mini, your child (or you) can enjoy six — but try stick to three instead.
HOLIDAY MINT M&M’S
PER 1.5 OUNCES: 210 calories, 8 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 30 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (1 g fiber, 27 g sugar), 2 g protein
M&M’s might be tiny, but their ingredient list is far from it — they’re filled with over 10 different color dyes including Red 40 and Yellow 5. This is rather alarming considering Europe has required foods with artificial dyes contain warning labels since July 2010 as a result of the discovery that they may cause hyperactivity in children.
WHITE PEPPERMINT M&M’S
PER 1.5 OUNCES: 210 calories, 10 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 40 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (0 g fiber, 27 g sugar), 2 g protein
Meet White Peppermint, Mint M&M’s sibling. Peppermint has a nearly identical nutritional profile to Mint aside from one thing: With two more grams of fat and one more gram of saturated, it’s naughty, not nice.
GUITTARD SMOOTH ‘N MELTY CHRISTMAS MINTS
PER 7 PIECES: 200 calories, 10 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 40 mg sodium, 29 g carbs (0 g fiber, 28 g sugar), 1 g protein
With partially hydrogenated oil, bloating whey, and a slew of artificial dyes and flavors, these Melty Mints are worse than a lump of coal. Hydrogenated oils are detrimental to heart health and have been linked to both high cholesterol and inflammation. you’d be better off drinking a Coke.
FERRARA CHOCOLATE FRUIT BURST MILK CHOCOLATE ORANGE
PER 5 SLICES: 240 calories, 14 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 26 g sugar, 1 g protein
Unlike the citrusy fruit it’s named after, this is one orange that won’t help you lose weight. Thanks to whole milk powder and cocoa butter, it’s got 14 grams of fat (8 of which are saturated). That’s a lot of fat for only about ¼ of the chocolatey orange!
THE #1 WORST CHRISTMAS CHOCOLATE IS… A TIE!
CHRISTMAS JUNIOR MINTS
PER 16 PIECES (40 G): 170 calories, 3 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 32 g sugar
JUNIOR MINTS PEPPERMINT CRUNCH
PER 15 PIECES (40 G): 170 calories, 3.5 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 32 g sugar
Tied for the naughtiest chocolate, these two Junior Mint flavors are under 200 calories and 5 grams of fat per serving but boast a whopping 32 grams of sugar. Within 24 hours of eating added sugar, your body is flooded with elevated levels of triglycerides, which universally lead to one thing: belly fat.
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