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Posted by: 2019-03-07 10:45:31

Sure, fancy chocolate is great and dark chocolate contains beneficial minerals and antioxidants, but there’s something so wonderfully nostalgic about a drugstore candy bar.

There’s nothing wrong with occasionally enjoying a treat just because it’s sweet. Even registered dietitians agree. Meredith Price, founder of Priceless Nutrition & Wellness, told HuffPost, “I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic and absolutely believe there is room in a healthy diet for chocolate and other sweets. I’d prefer to choose healthier options like dark chocolate. However, if someone enjoys a Snickers bar every now and then, that is 100 percent OK.”

Price added that the important thing is to focus on incorporating beneficial foods into your diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.) rather than getting caught up in which foods to limit.

But back to chocolate: Do the peanuts in a Snickers bar somewhat make up for the 25 grams of added sugar (a whopping 50 percent of your recommended daily value)? Do the almonds and coconut in an Almond Joy offer significant nutritional value? Is there a “healthier” candy bar that stands above the rest of America’s favorites?

We asked three nutritionists to rank the nation’s most popular candy bars (according to retail sales data from IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm) from healthiest to least healthy. They each came up with their own drastically different guidelines.

These were the 10 top-selling candy bars in the U.S. last year (in the category of chocolate candy box/bag/bar less than 3.5 ounces):

  1. Snickers
  2. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar
  3. Kit Kat
  4. Twix
  5. 3 Musketeers
  6. Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme
  7. Reese’s Sticks
  8. Almond Joy
  9. Milky Way
  10. Hershey’s Gold

Meredith Price’s Ranking

Price ranked the candy bars based on saturated fat and sugar content, and those with trans fats automatically went to the bottom of her list.

She noted that calories weren’t a consideration as the bars all fell within the same range (210 to 250 calories). But trans fats, or partially hydrogenated oils, were a red flag. Trans fats “should be completely avoided in the diet due to their ability to increase risk of heart disease,” she said.

“To choose the healthiest candy bar, you want one with the least amount of sugar and saturated fat and absolutely no trans fats,” Price said. “If you were to choose any candy bar [including those not on this list], the best option is to go for a dark chocolate version as they tend to have less sugar and even some beneficial properties like antioxidants and trace minerals.”

Price’s ranking (with links to the nutrition facts for each bar):

Snickers, the “healthiest” option, has the lowest amount of saturated fat (23 percent) in the group, according to Price. “It is a bit higher in sugar than most of the others,” she added. “Therefore, if you’re enjoying a Snickers bar, try to have this be your one sweet treat of the day.”

Twix came in second for its moderate saturated fat (30 percent) and sugar (22 grams) content.

The worst of the lot, 3 Musketeers, has both trans fats and the highest amount of sugar (36 grams). “That’s a whopping 9 teaspoons of sugar in one candy bar, which is higher than the American Heart Association’s upper recommendation of daily sugar intake,” Price said.

Natalie Rizzo’s Ranking

Rizzo, a registered dietitian and author of The No-Brainer Nutrition Guide for Every Runner, looked for recognizable ingredients.

While she didn’t consider any of the candy bars to be healthy, she said she favored those with “some sort of healthy ingredients, like nuts or chocolate, as the first ingredients on the list.” Among bars with similar ingredients, the one with less sugar won out, and candy bars containing unrecognizable ingredients went to the bottom of the list.

On the group as a whole, Rizzo said, “They are all an indulgence to have once in a while. I suggest opting for the one that satisfies your sweet tooth, since they all have very similar nutrition facts.”

  1. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar
  2. Reese’s Sticks
  3. Snickers
  4. Twix
  5. Milky Way
  6. 3 Musketeers
  7. Almond Joy
  8. Kit Kat
  9. Hershey’s Gold
  10. Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme

Her top pick, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar, “has the most pure ingredients, made from just milk chocolate without many additives.” Reese’s Sticks top Rizzo’s list because milk chocolate and peanuts lead their ingredients. Rizzo also pointed out that Reese’s Sticks have less sugar than the others and 4 grams of protein.

The other Hershey’s bars didn’t fare as well in her ranking, with the Gold and Cookies ‘n’ Creme bars coming in at the bottom of the list. Rizzo described Hershey’s Gold as a “sugar-forward bar made with other additives like vegetable oil” and its “only redeeming quality” being the peanuts. Sugar is also the first ingredient in Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme, and Rizzo noted that she didn’t recognize most of the other ingredients.

Jonathan Valdez’s Ranking

Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition and media spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, took note of serving size, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and calories.

“If there is more than 20 percent of your daily value of these nutrients per serving, that raises a flag in terms of health impacts,” Valdez said. “It is also important to look at the fiber, protein and mineral content.”

  1. Reese’s Sticks
  2. Kit Kat
  3. Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme
  4. Hershey’s Gold
  5. Almond Joy
  6. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar
  7. 3 Musketeers
  8. Milky Way
  9. Snickers
  10. Twix

He put Reese’s Sticks at the top of his list in part because, “compared to the other bars, this has the lowest amount of saturated fat,” Valdez said. Kit Kat, in second place, has “higher traces of vitamin D, iron, calcium and potassium” compared to Reese’s Sticks and a relatively lower fat content compared to the others.

Snickers just avoided the last slot because it has less saturated fat than Twix, which Valdez deemed “the worst candy of the choices.”

The lack of consensus among the three experts, who valiantly scraped to find redeeming nutritional qualities, indicates that there isn’t a truly healthy option here. But then you already knew that about candy bars.

“Everything in moderation,” Valdez said. “Ultimately, if it doesn’t exceed your caloric needs, it will not lead to weight gain. [But] eat too much of these treats, and they can replace other nutritional foods such as fruits, dairy and lean proteins.”

In short, if you choose to indulge, you could just pick the one you like best.

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