7 Healthy Foods as Sweet as Candy

Don’t be haunted by your sweet tooth; simulate a sugar rush with these tasty and healthier treats

October 20, 2011
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This time of year, the ubiquity of candy summons a monsterlike sugar craving in all of us--which can be more terrifying than the latest slasher flick when it comes to sticking to a weight loss plan. With its often-astronomical sugar content, candy's clearly not the best choice for your diet. So instead of looting the nearest kid's Halloween spoils the next time a sweet tooth haunts you, reach for these healthier, but just as sweet, suggestions from Marisa Moore, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

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Dried Fruit

Are you gaga for gummy snacks? Opt for dried fruit, which contains far fewer calories and grams of sugar than fruit-flavored bears and worms, and has the added benefit of vitamin C, dietary fiber, and other minerals. Just keep in mind that dried fruit contains more calories per gram than fresh produce. A cup of grapes contains about 60 calories, but 2 tablespoons of raisins pack more than 80 calories. Mix dried wild blueberries or cranberries with nuts to add protein, minimize the amount of sugar you consume, and keep you satisfied.

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Yogurt with fruit
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Greek Yogurt with Honey and Fruit

For a decadent-tasting dessert, top Greek yogurt with fruit and honey. "Not only does it satisfy your sweet tooth, but also has that creamy, cold texture we like in desserts," Moore says. Plus, it's a superhealthy combo: Yogurt is packed with protein, fruit contains fiber and nutrients, and honey contains antioxidants and possesses antimicrobial properties, which can keep us healthy.

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Frozen Banana Dipped in Chocolate

Quell your hankering for ice cream by whipping up a, healthier frozen treat. Dip a small banana in melted dark chocolate and then put it into the freezer. The fruit's a fantastic source of potassium, which has been linked to a reduced risk of stroke and lower blood pressure.

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Cinnamon-Sugar Popcorn

Choose popcorn without added salt, butter, or oil, and prepare it according to the directions. Then dust it with a little bit of cinnamon and sugar. "It's sweet and low in calories," Moore says. Three cups of this light snack come to about 90 calories. You'll want to go easy on the sugar, but it's not so bad if you have a heavy hand with the cinnamon. Research suggests that the spice may lower glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.

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Hot Cocoa

"A tablespoon of powder contains 12 calories and almost 2 g of fiber." It also boasts flavonoids, which have been linked to heart health, reduced blood pressure, and lower stroke risk. To get the most benefit, select natural cocoa powder, not cocoa that has been alkalized. The alkalization process removes some of cocoa's bitterness and improves its color and solubility, but may destroy or modify some beneficial phytonutrients. Check the label for the word alkalized, Dutch-processed, or European-style, and "alkali" will be listed in the ingredients. If it's not alkalized, the label will read "natural" or "nonalkalized." Mix it with skim, almond, or soy milk for a low-calorie treat that also serves up plenty of calcium and protein.

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Almonds Dusted with Cocoa Powder

Get the sweet and salty satisfaction of eating a Snickers bar or Peanut M&Ms without all of the fat and calories. A quarter cup of Emerald Cocoa Roasted Almonds comes to just 150 calories and packs 6 g of protein and 3 g of dietary fiber. Or you could make your own. Either way you'll reap the benefits of the heart-healthy nut, which can lower harmful LDL cholesterol.

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Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is a candyphile's saving grace, as it packs real health benefits. Evidence suggests it may reduce blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease. It also lowers stress hormones in anxious people, according to a study published by the American Chemical Society. Look for chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa , and be sure to consume only a bite-size piece, or about an ounce. Despite its positive qualities, an ounce of dark chocolate still often packs close to 150 calories, Moore warns.

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