The 50 Most Popular Christmas Candies—Ranked!
“All year long I eat healthy, and then Christmas comes along and I turn into a candy-loving kid again,” our friend Maureen joked. “I’m like a reverse Santa Claus. He stuffs kids’ stockings. I unstuff them—and then stuff my mouth.”
We totally related to her sugar-coated frustration. 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 us 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, Eat This, Not That! 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.
RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.
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
Reese’s Bells, Reese’s Bells, Reese’s not all the way. Although there are a few on our Nice List, these guys are definitely naughty. Anything listed with partially hydrogenated oils AKA trans fat, which have been banned by the FDA, are a no-go.
DOVE PEPPERMINT BARK DARK CHOCOLATE SQUARES
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 we mention the first ingredient is sugar?
DOVE SILKY SMOOTH SNOWFLAKE PROMISES CHOCOLATE ASSORTMENT
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
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.
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.
HERSHEY’S CANDY CANE KISSES
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, we can’t ignore the artificial dyes, words “artifical flavor” and corn syrup in their ingredient list (or the steep sugar and fat counts).
BRACH’S PEPPERMINT CHRISTMAS TREE NOUGATS
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
“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
Chocolate and Santa are both 100% kid approved and since they’re mini, your child (or you) can enjoy six—but try three instead. Quick tricks like that are just one of the most overlooked ways to lose weight!
HOLIDAY MINT M&M’S
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
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
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
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!
AND THE #1 WORST CHRISTMAS CHOCOLATE IS… A TIE!
CHRISTMAS JUNIOR MINTS
JUNIOR MINTS PEPPERMINT CRUNCH
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.
AND NOW…THE BEST!
To be ranked a “best” Christmas chocolate, you had to be under 21 grams of sugar—the sweet stuff’s been linked to weight gain, as well as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. While calories and fat also factored into our rankings, having more natural ingredients (and fewer ingredients, at that), earned certain chocolates that may have had higher calorie and fat counts more points. Having more quality calories will benefit you far more than fewer calories loaded with artificial additives, especially when those calories are from antioxidant-rich cocoa.
Reese’s lovers rejoice—although Reese’s Bells got axed from the Nice List, there’s two ETNT approved holiday varieties. The first is this Reese’s Snowman, which is free of trans fats and nutritionally superior to the Bells (when you eat ¼ of the Snowman that is—that’s the serving size, and stick to it).
REESE’S PEANUT BUTTER TREES
And your best Reese’s option is… these Reese’s Trees! You can indulge in one for just 90 calories, 5 grams of fat and 8 grams of sugar!
LINDT MILK CHOCOLATE SNOWMEN
If you’re one of those people who love giving oversized holiday-shaped chocolates as presents, try downsizing it this year. These mini Lindt Milk Chocolate Snowmen are just 55 calories a piece. Whether or not the recipient decides to eat the full serving is up to them, but at least the nutrition comes from quality ingredients.
GOLD EMBLEM CHOCOLATE COVERED PRETZELS
Despite a lengthy ingredient list, these Chocolate Covered Pretzels are low in calories and won’t tap out your fat and sugar banks. They’re the perfect treat for any salty and sweet fan.
GHIRARDELLI SQUARES PEPPERMINT BARK
Peppermint bark may be a festive holiday staple, but unless you can limit yourself to just a square or two, it’s a slippery slope–especially if you’re trying to survive the holidays without love handles. Just three squares have nearly as many calories as entire bag of Reese’s Pieces and an extra gram of saturated fat.
KIT KAT MINT MINIATURES
Take a break from shopping with one of these Kit Kat Mint Miniatures. They pop right into your mouth and contain peppermint oil, a weight loss superfoods. In fact, researchers conclude that by adding mint to your diet, more of the fat you consume will be metabolized, as opposed to steadily making your pants tighter.
HERSHEY’S MILK CHOCOLATE SANTA
Not a fan of mini? Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Santa is perfectly portioned so that you can indulge with boundaries. (But if you’re genuinely hungry, turn to one of the best snack foods in America rather than filling up on candy.)
GHIRARDELLI HOLIDAY IMPRESSIONS CHOCOLATE MILK & DARK
Although we have listed the nutritional profile of three Ghirardelli Holiday Impression squares in order to keep our comparisons uniform, the actual packing serving size is only 1 square. If you have the self control, that’s just 70 calories, 4.5 grams of fat and 7 grams of sugar per individually wrapped square.
GHIRARDELLI SQUARES PEPPERMINT BARK WITH DARK CHOCOLATE
You already know that peppermint is a lethal weight loss weapon, but did you know that chocolate can actually help you burn fat? Chocolate boasts powerful natural chemicals called flavanols that have been found to help lower blood sugar and also decrease body fat, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
RUSSELL STOVER CARAMEL SANTA
We doubt Russell and Clara Stover were making these caramel santas when they began their candy business in their home in Denver, Colorado in 1923. However, they’ve become a popular festive treat that would earn Mrs. Claus’ approval.
THEO DARK CHOCOLATE NUTCRACKER TOFFEE
This Dark Chocolate Nutcracker Toffee bar is made with organic, wholesome ingredients—aka food that was not made in a lab. According to a study published in the Journal of Proteome Research, regularly consuming small amounts of high quality chocolate fights stress that can lead to weight gain.
RUSSELL STOVER MARSHMALLOW SANTA
Your best Santa chocolate bar option is this Russell Stover Marshmallow Santa. It’s just 100 calories and has just 14 grams of sugar. Plus, marshmallow and chocolate? No brainer.
AND THE #1 CHRISTMAS CHOCOLATE IS… MADELAINE CHOCOLATE COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS CALENDAR
It’s rather fitting that at the top of our Nice Chocolate List is this Chocolate Countdown to Christmas Calendar. Each window reveals a 50 calorie milk chocolate wrapped like a Christmas present. It seems a little counterintuitive, but to really take control over your cravings you’ve got to indulge in them—slowly, one day at a time! And to blast even more belly fat, pair the cup with a cup of tea. A study published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism showed that white tea can simultaneously boost lipolysis (the breakdown of fat) and block adipogenesis (the formation of fat cells). The tea’s combination of caffeine and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) seems to set fat cells up for defeat. We at Eat This, Not That! love tea so much, we made it part of our bestselling new diet plan, The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse! Test panelists lost 10 pounds in one week!
HARD CANDIES AND GUMMIES
These candies were primarily ranked based on their nutritional profiles. From there, we looked at their ingredients and adjusted our rankings accordingly.
FIRST… THE WORST
FERRARA GUMMY CHRISTMAS WREATHS CANDY
These are just sugar-coated ring-shaped gels—you’d be better off eating a real wreath.
SEVIGNY’S THIN PEPPERMINT RIBBON CANDY
While you might be ribboned out from wrapping presents, you probably wouldn’t turn down some quality ribbon candy. These are made using real peppermint but unfortunately, the nutritional benefits stop there.
BOB’S SWEET STRIPES WINTERY MIX
Offered in chocolate mint, hot chocolate and caramel macchiato, these sweet stripes are bursting with artificial dyes, flavor and sugar.
STARBURST MERRY MIX
Starburst Merry Mix contains red and green colored fruit chews in both cherry and strawberry flavors. They are the only candy in this category that contains fat and it’s saturated (the worst kind). Keep this star away from your tree.
BRACH’S PEPPERMINT CANDY CANE CANDY CORN
Per 19 pieces (39 g): 140 calories, 0 g fat, 28 g sugar
These crème candies are shaped like a kernel of corn in a fun holiday color assortment and peppermint flavor. However, their first ingredient is sugar, followed by corn syrup and artificial coloring.
AND THE #1 WORST CHRISTMAS CANDY IS… PEEPS CANDY CANE
With 34 gram of waist-widening sugar and not a single other real ingredient, Candy Cane Peeps take the crown for the worst in this bunch.
AND NOW… THE BEST
TROLLI EXTREME SOUR FROST BITES
Trolli’s Extreme Sour Frost Bites serving size was rather large so we cut it in half. Still you can munch on a generous amount for just 120 calories.
BRACH’S JELLY CANDY PEPPERMINT CREME CANDY CANES
nutrinfo-black]Per 41 grams: 160 calories, 3 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 55 mg sodium, 35 g carbs (0 g fiber, 23 g sugar), 0 g protein[/nutrinfo-black]
With the flavor of a candy cane and the chewiness of a gummy, you can knock out two candy cravings. Although these are a little higher in sugar and calories, they contain peppermint oil as opposed to artificial peppermint flavor, boosting their rank a bit. And if you’re pairing them with a mint cocktail, you’ll need this list of the 25 best foods for a hangover!
Candy Cane Peeps may be the worst gummy christmas candy, but the Snowmen version is 8 grams lower in sugar and 30 less calories. Sometimes you deserve a little treat, whether it be a marshmallow snowman or one of your favorite cheat meals!
Before sugary worms, bears and sour kids, gumdrops stole both America’s hearts and tastebuds. In fact, if you lived in the late 19th century, you just might be calling your sweetheart “gumdrop.”
The Sugar Plum Fairy casts one serious spell on all who watch her. Surprisingly she doesn’t sit around eating Sugar Plums all day to achieve her slim figure. Nonetheless, the candied fruit won’t devastate your waistline if consumed with the recommended serving size.
DUM DUMS HOLIDAY POPS
Dum Dums take the win with just 50 calories and 10 grams of sugar per two pop serving. They offer a wide variety of flavors (Merry Cherry, Gingerbread, Hot Chocolate, Sugar Plum, Apple Cider, Green Apple Crunch and Polar Punch), allowing you to indulge in your favorite seasonal treats without the steep nutritional cost. Especially because each takes a while to suck.
All typically comprised of a combination of sugar, corn syrup, flavoring and artificial colors, the amount of each can tip the calorie and sugar scale one way or the other for each of these canes. As none of these candy canes had any fat, we primarily looked at calories and sugar, but deducted points for added artificial flavors and longer ingredient lists.
FIRST… THE WORST
TROLLI SOUR BRITE HOLIDAY CANDY CANES
WARHEADS SUPER SOUR CANDY CANES
Although both Trolli’s and Warhead’s sour canes have the lowest calorie and sugar contents of their contenders, they are packed with artificial flavors and color dyes. Not that this is too shocking, considering each varieties’ neon stripes.
HERSHEY’S CHOCOLATE MINT CANES
Don’t be fooled by this cane’s name–mint and chocolate aren’t in their list of ingredients. Fake flavors along with added sugars, 11 grams of sugar and a slew of artificial colors are what give this one their superficial appeal.
JELLY BELLY GOURMET CANDY CANES
These Jelly Bean “Gourmet” Candy Canes come in three fruity flavors: watermelon, tutti-fruitti and blueberry. And just like the jellies, they’re artificially flavored sugar with crunch instead of chew.
WELCH’S CANDY CANES
While Welch’s 100% Grape Juice may be made from the real thing (aka concord grapes), their concord grape flavored candy canes are not. And the same goes for the raspberry and white grape peach flavors. With 12 grams of sugar and a laundry list of manmade chemicals, these candy canes are almost the worst.
AND THE #1 WORST CHRISTMAS CANDY CANE IS… FANCY PICKLE CANDY CANES
Apparently Pickle Candy Canes is a thing and with 75 calories and 15 grams of sugar per cane, these are your worst option. However, we’re guessing this wasn’t your first Christmas candy choice anyways.
AND NOW… THE BEST
BOB’S CHERRY RAINBOW CANDY CANES
Our “worst best” candy cane are these Bob’s Cherry Rainbow Candy Canes with 50 calories and 11 grams of sugar per cane. Founded by Bob McCormack, Bob’s Candies were the first manufacturers to wrap candy in cellophane. It’s no wonder with their colorful appeal and, consequently, several color dyes and artificial flavors.
SPANGLER PEPPERMINT CANDY CANES
Spangler’s Peppermint Candy Canes contain few ingredients, which means they contain less artificial stuff. However, despite their name, the only thing peppermint about them is, well…fake.
JOYBRITE PEPPERMINT CANDY CANES
We are thrilled to see peppermint oil listed as an ingredient in this holiday staple. Mint offers a plethora of health benefits including, aiding weight loss, fighting cancer-causing free radicals, settling an upset stomach, reducing pain and even improving brain function.
BOB’S RED AND WHITE PEPPERMINT CANDY CANES
Despite Bob’s Cherry variety, these traditional canes contain the real thing (mint), along with four other ingredients. Plus they’ve got just 10 grams of sugar.
AND THE #1 BEST CHRISTMAS CANDY CANE IS… BOB’S MINI PEPPERMINT CANDY CANES
With the same ingredients and nutrition as Bob’s regular sized Red and White Peppermint Candy Cane, we chose these minis are the best Christmas candy cane because you can indulge in one or two of them for under 50 calories and 10 grams of sugar.