Easter candy doesn’t just have to be a Carb Back-Loader’s dream food; even though I’d rather write an article on how bad sugar is for the body, let’s just face it: we all crave a little sweet treat every now and then.
Because I am more than excited to have a little Easter treat this weekend (I will have gone 40 days without any cheat meals—sweets, carbs, you name it!), I dug into the nutritional labels for all my favorite candies. (I know, I’m nuts.) I figure if I’m going to splurge, I can splurge one of two ways: either have a very small portion of whatever I want, or eat a little more of the “healthier” options. I’m an eater—I just really enjoy food—and since splurges don’t happen often, I tend to go a little overboard. So I’ve done my homework and I’m going to give you all the findings.
Before we start out—and before I started this research—all I could think about were Cadbury Eggs and Starburst Jelly Beans. I feel like I’ve been waiting all year for these two treats. How do you think they will turn out on the list? What are your favorites and how do you think they will fare?
Buzzfeed.com ranked the top 17 most popular Easter candies and I’ve rearranged their ranking in order to take nutritional information and ingredients into consideration. Also because I know that most of my readers are hard-core fitness enthusiasts and some Carb Back-Loaders, I’ve also taken into consideration the nutritional breakdown of the candy in response to exercise and using the candy as “re-fueling” and not just a splurge.
CAUTION: BEWARE OF THE ‘GREDIENTS
Before we take a look at the list, I want to point out a couple things about the candy ingredients. First of all, if a candy has “High Fructose Corn Syrup,” (HFCS) listed in the first half of the ingredients, it literally falls to the bottom of the list. Carb Back-Loaders know why: Anyone trying to lose fat MUST avoid HFCS because it can single handedly complicate every last effort made to lose any body fat at all. HFCS is probably the number one ingredient contributing to obesity—especially in children. My advice to you is to avoid it at all costs—even in a little splurge. While “everything in moderation” is the motto of most that I know, even this little moderation can do more harm than most realize.
“This point can never be emphasized enough. Searching for high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, glycerine and sugar alcohols among the ingredients of cookies, bakery items, soft-drinks, candy bars and, the most counterintuitive of all, nutrition bars can help you eliminate as many of these items from your diet as possible. With the average daily consumption of Bulk Carbohydrate Sweeteners reaching a staggering 30% of calories in the United States, evidence points to these carbs as a significant cause of accelerating rates of obesity, particularly among children. Once more: avoid, avoid, avoid.” John Kiefer, BA, MS
While we can definitely avoid HFCS, one ingredient that’s almost impossible to avoid in candy is “Corn Syrup.” I know, it sounds the same—just no high-fructose on the front of the name. Corn syrup is NOT good for anyone, but it’s better than HFCS. You most likely won’t be able to avoid this one, but if you can—awesome! Corn Syrup is simply the breakdown of corn starch—giving manufacturers a cheaper way to make gooey sugar. High-fructose corn syrup is a highly concentrated form of corn syrup—much sweeter—and it adds to the glucose levels in the body making it much more dangerous for consumers. HFCS raises bad cholesterol because it’s simply made to add to the shelf life of the food item. Personally, I don’t want anything sitting in my intestines for months because of a piece of candy!
Which brings me to my final “ingredient-beware”: hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. When it comes to shelf life, hydrogenated oils are key. These oils are actually fine in their original state, but once processed, they become ONE MOLECULE AWAY from PLASTIC. Ask yourself right now if you’d like to eat plastic for Easter. Um, no thanks. The negative health effects of eating hydrogenated oils can occur within minutes of eating the product. Studies show that consumers of these almost-plastic-ingredients experience emotional and physical ailments, and long term ingestion can lead to blood thickening, the elevation of bad cholesterol, ADHD, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimers. If I were you, I’d keep an eye out on nutritional labels from now on.
So, has anyone decided to forego the candy yet? I’ll admit, doing this research really made me think twice about being so “eager” for my splurge. I would love to eat an Easter basket full of Cadbury Crème Eggs (no, I do NOT think they’re too sweet like everyone else does), but I’m getting a little worried at this point.
Now if you are really concerned about your diet and you’d like to have a splurge without seeing any negative effects, (wouldn’t we all?!) there are still more elements to consider. The type of candy you eat can actually contribute to muscle growth AND fat loss—if you eat it at the right time after performing the right exercises. I doubt many of us will be working out on Easter Sunday. No worries. Eat very low carb throughout the day and on Sunday night, have your candy splurge. You will build your glycogen stores which should fuel you for your heavy lifting workout on Monday. If you ARE working out on the day you eat your candy—GREAT! All you need to do is lift weights like no one else’s business, and have your candy—with protein—in that 1-4 hour window post lifting. There’s only one suggestion I will make here on candy choice: choose low fat candy. Those of us using candy to replenish lost carbs from a workout need to make sure we are eating the candy with the lowest amount of fat—preferably with dextrose as a main ingredient—and that way the body will most efficiently USE the candy verses storing it on our asses. Or thighs. Whatever. Point is, lift heavy so that your muscles are ready, and choose the right candy so that your body will use it to maximize muscle gain and fat loss. That is SO up my alley right there.
So now—what you’ve been waiting for! The candies below are ranked in order according to what I think is best for the muscle building, fat losing athlete. Ingredients, macronutrient count, refueling ability, and popularity are my basis—in that order. We’ll start with the worst:
17. The Nestle Crunch Eggs is our first Easter candy packing high-fructose corn syrup in its ingredient list. The label claims that HFCS is less than 1% so in my opinion, if you just HAVE TO HAVE one of these little egg drops then I really think one or two won’t hurt you. The serving size is for 5…so just stick to a couple. If you do have all five, think about this: 190 calories, 10 grams of fat, 25 grams of carbs—21 of which are sugar. But the scariest thing of all about these eggs? Not only do they contain HFCS, but after the top ingredient—sugar—the next two most abundant ingredients are hydrogenated coconut oil and hydrogenated palm kernel oil. TWO hydrogenated oils. Even the cocoa, “alkalized cocoa” just sounds scary to me. Why not plain cocoa? Why does everything have to be chemical processed? Just avoid the crunch. Stay far, far away.
16. The next “worst” Easter candy—and the one with the most high-fructose corn syrup in the list—just happens to be my ultimate favorite: The Cadbury Crème Egg. Go flippin’ figure, right? This little chocolaty cream-filled gooey goodness—that I look forward to each and every year—contains an alarmingly high amount of high-fructose corn syrup. And the other top ingredients are sugar, corn syrup (more sugar), and then more sugar. Ugh. Just ONE is 150 calories, 6 grams of fat, 24 grams of carbs, and 20 grams of sugar. HOWEVER—and this is a BIG however—apparently the eggs appear to be gluten free. I stumbled upon a site that I have book marked for future reference: celiacfamily.com. Click HERE to check out an entire list of gluten-free candy. So while the Cadbury Egg may destroy all my dieting efforts, at least I don’t have to worry about stomach cramps from the gluten. Boy do I know how to pick ‘em, huh?
15. Next in line for worst Easter candy is another Nestle egg…The Nestle Butterfinger Egg. I promise I don’t have it out for Nestle. In fact, the Butterfinger is one of my all-time favorite candy bars. But these little eggs—5 pieces total—pack 210 calories, 11 grams of fat, 29 grams of carbs with 24 of sugar, and are chock full of hydrogenated oils. In fact, sugar, corn syrup, and hydrogenated palm kernel oil are the first three ingredients on the list. Again, if you want just one, divide those numbers by five and you’ve got a 42-calorie mini egg. Not so bad. If you can stick to one.
14. Finally—out of the egg basket. Next in line, weighing in at 210 calories, 11 grams of fat, 27 grams of carbs and 21 grams of sugar is…drum roll…The Easter Kit Kat Bar! Let me point out that nothing is special about this kit kat except that the packaging is Easter-colored. And those numbers listed above are for one small kit kat package. Kinda takes the fun out of it, doesn’t it?
13. And we’re right back to eggs again: The M&M’s Easter Egg. This egg filled with pastel colored M&M candies will cost your nutritional allowance a hefty 280 calories and 12 grams of fat! There are 36 grams of sugar but no hydrogenated oils that I could find. There were, however, lots of color #s in the ingredient list and I’m never really a fan of these. The dyes and additives tend to scare me off a bit. If I don’t know what’s in my food, I really don’t want to blindly put it in my body. ‘Tis a shame, though—M&Ms have always been one of my top picks.
12. Number 12 on our list of 17 is awarded to the Whoppers Mini Robin Eggs. One serving size—56 grams—packs in 250 calories, 8 grams of fat, and a whopping—see what I did there?—39 grams of sugar. That’s a lot of sugar. They are literally made up of sugar, corn syrup, and partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil. And that’s just the beginning of the ingredients. Again, I’d steer clear of these eggs if I were you.
11. Moving away from eggs and onto the bunnies: The Russell Stover Marshmallow Bunny follows next in line as we move our way towards the better end of the Easter list. The marshmallow bunny has 240 calories and 37 grams of sugar, but only 7 grams of fat are contained in this fluffy package. Lots of carbs? Yes. Tons of fat? Not too much. But the best news? No hydrogenated oils! At least that I could find anyway.
The Top 10: Now We’re Getting Somewhre!
10. The Russell Stover Hollow Bunny falls at number ten because you can eat the entire bunny for 240 calories! Yes, there are 15 grams of fat but only 21 grams of sugar and that’s pretty low considering you’re eating the whole bunny. Wait, you ARE eating the whole bunny, right? Ha. Ok, I know, you’re starting with the ears and then leaving bit by bit for later. Moral of the story, Easter isn’t Easter without the hollow bunny. What I would definitely advise against, however, is the solid bunny. The solid chocolate bunny rocks a crazy 460 calories, 28 grams of fat, 46 grams of sugar, and is destined to leave you with a belly ache. Unless you chop this bunny into fifths, don’t even think about this one.
9. Number 9 is the Dove Dark Chocolate Easter Eggs. These little eggs contain only six ingredients: chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, milkfat, soy lecithin, and natural flavors—whatever that may be. Even though five eggs chalk up 220 calories and 14 grams of fat, I would much rather eat a product without the corn syrups and hydrogenated oils than take in chemically processed ingredients. Good job, Dove! Keep up the great work!
8. Oh we’re getting closer!—is Cadbury’s Mini Eggs. You can eat 12 of these solid milk chocolate eggs for only 190 calories, 8 grams of fat and 27 grams of sugar. There are no hydrogenated oils listed in the ingredients, and corn syrup—though listed—isn’t listed until further down the label. That’s awesome!
7. Number 7 and 6 were two toss-ups for me. I kept going back and forth between which one should be ranked higher. I chose to place the Snicker’s Easter Egg as seventh just for the mere fact that it’s a little less popular than my number 6. But the Snicker’s Egg comes in around 160 calories per egg, 9 grams of fat and 16 grams of sugar—not a ton of sugar I might add! Unfortunately there are some hydrogenated oils, but it’s pretty low on the ingredient list.
6. Number 6 is a long-time favorite of mine and of most people I know: the classic Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg. This smooth, chocolate covered peanut buttery goodness contains 170 calories per egg, 10 grams of fat, 16 grams of sugar and even contains 4 grams of protein. Not too shabby! Unfortunately, hydrogenated vegetable oil falls within the ingredient spectrum but fortunately, these eggs are gluten free! Score!
The Top 5: Are You Excited Yet?
The top five candies are pretty special. They are the lifter’s dream candy. Each of the five contain zero fat and many of the sugars come from dextrose: the weightlifter’s recovery carb of choice. In fact, the top five all fall under 150 calories per serving and are all under 30 carbs per serving. If paired with a heavy lifting session and a lean protein (shake anyone?), these candies could actually become more than a one-time splurge for lifters with a sweet tooth.
Ok, enough rambling…here they are: the top five!
5. Jelly Belly Candy Corn: for 30 pieces of pastel colored candy corn, you can get 27 grams post recovery sugar (35 total carbs), zero fat, and only 140 calories per serving. There’s no HFCS and no hydrogenated oils. The only downside for me with the candy corn is that it’s…well…candy corn. There’s nothing that makes it different from Halloween Candy Corn except the color and I don’t really like it all that much. But maybe you do? Moving on.
4. Kraft Bunny Marshmallows. You can have 15 bunny marshmallows for only 100 calories and 19 grams of sugar. It almost sounds like a gimmick: “For only 100 calories…” and I have to admit, I’m kind of sold. I love marshmallows—especially when you dump them into a shaker cup with vanilla protein and almond milk. Best recovery shake ever.
3. Wonka SweeTarts Chicks. Need something sweet and sour? Are you a “I gotta have something crunchy to munch on” kind of person? Let Wonka’s SweeTarts kick your craving. You can eat four Easter chicks for a mere 60 calories. That’s right—each little chick is only 15 calories a piece. You know what I’d do? I’d just pop a chick every so often during my “cheat night.” And each of these little chicks has under 4 grams of sugar—from dextrose. Carb back-loading? Pop a handful of these chicks with your low-carb protein shake and you’ll be set. Your abs will be what’s popping by the morning. Can I say “pop” one more time?
2. It wouldn’t be Easter without PEEPS! Who doesn’t love a peep or two? These gooey, sugar-covered marshmallow bunnies and chicks weigh in at 130 calories for four pieces and 29 grams of sugar. They even have one gram of protein. They’re perfect for after a late night lift session. Worried about sugar? Try two and save on over 14 grams of sugar. Sounds like we have a winner to me!
1. We couldn’t have a clear winner without crowning our number one Easter candy: The Starburst Jelly Bean. Did you know that you can eat a whole quarter of a cup of these multi-colored beans for only 140 calories and 27 grams of sugar?! Not half bad for a whole quarter cup! I personally plan on splurging with jelly beans throughout the course of the day on Easter…if I can’t mix carbs with fats or enjoy my fave—the Cadbury Egg—I’ll just make do with my second favorite instead. Not that bad of a fallback, huh?
Stay tuned for my sequel: How to burn off the holiday candy craze.
For more information:
Keifer, John. The Carb-Nite Solution. Kiefer Productions, 2005. p 117.
Feature image by Idle Type
I’m dying to know…what’s your favorite Easter candy? Is it listed above? Let us know in the comments section below.