20 Healthy Foods to Give You Your Sugar Fix Instead of Candy

Heather Barnett
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STYLECASTER | Healthy Snack Ideas | Smart Ways to Get Your Sugar FIx
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I don’t know about you, but it seems like every day around 3PM, it hits—that craving for a sugary snack. You know you shouldn’t, especially since you’re just going to want dessert after dinner, too, but you also know there’s a vending machine across the hall in the break room. You tell yourself you’ll only have one candy bar (but of course, you’re fudging that… OMG, why can’t we stop thinking about chocolate?).

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Sugary cravings are super-common—especially because, for women, certain phases of your menstrual cycle can cause hormonal surges that make you want the sweet stuff—hence the chocolate tunnel vision. Regardless of why you’re craving sugar, it’s fine to give your body what it wants—but it’s best to do it the smart way, i.e. by consuming snacks with at least some nutritional value that won’t cause your blood sugar to crash 45 minutes later (and your mood and energy along with it).

MORE: Health Advice for Every Phase of Your Menstrual Cycle

The good news is, there are tons of healthy (and easy-to-reach-for) alternatives to processed, sugar-loaded sweets. And the better news is you don’t have to avoid any sugar (or chocolate) at all. You just have to make a smarter swap that zaps that craving. Next time your sweet tooth has you jonesing for a  treat, skip the vending machine and get your fix with one of the healthier options, ahead.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Fresh Fruit | Healthy Eating 2017
Fresh Fruit

Fresh fruit has natural sugars to quash that craving—sometimes just as much as that candy you wanted. But they're also packed with good-for-you vitamins and other nutrients. Just limit your serving size to control the sugar intake and snack away guilt-free. If you don't think that will do it for you, remember that many fruits' sugary flavor is enhanced with a pinch of salt.

You can even make yourself some fun fruit kabobs by skewering several different bite-size fruit pieces with varying nutritional benefits on some toothpicks or a skewer for a serious power snack you can feel good about. For fall, try skewers stacked with chunks of sweet apple, cranberries and grapes.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Dried Fruit | Healthy Eating 2017
Dried Fruit

Like their fresh counterparts, dried fruits have natural sugar (about the same amount as they did before they were dried). But unlike fresh fruits, they can be stashed around the office, in your purse or in your glovebox to be at the ready anytime the mood strikes you. As with fresh fruit, just limit your intake to a single serving. And if you also need a little protein kick to make it until dinner, pair it with a small handful of nuts or seeds and a few cubes of cheese. Dried cranberries pair well with honey-roasted peanuts and gouda. If you aren't sure you'd be the best judge of palatable pairings, opt for Sargento's Balanced Breaks.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Bite-Size Dark Chocolate | Healthy Eating 2017
Bite-Size Dark Chocolate

OK, you busted us. Yes, it is candy, but dark chocolate is actually packed with health benefits that make taking the sugar hit acceptable so long as you limit your intake. It promises protection from free radicals, improved heart health and overall cholesterol profile, better cognitive function and more and is jam-packed with antioxidants. Just stick to the bite-size varieties to control your portions and keep you from opting for something with sugary extras like nutritionless nougat. Walk down the Halloween candy aisle with confidence—just opt for the Hershey's dark chocolate minis or Dove squares instead of the king-size versions.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Healthy Cereal With a Twist | Healthy Eating 2017
Healthy Cereal With a Twist

Instead of chowing down on sugar-laden pre-sweetened cereals, serve yourself up a healthy whole-grain cereal. Kashi certainly comes to mind, but you can also jazz up your favorite plain wheat cereal with fresh or dried fruit, a drizzle of honey or maple syrup or even a dash of sugar-free sweetener in addition to the milk. Try Shredded Wheat with kiwi slices, oatmeal with berries and a touch of cream or Grape Nuts with raisins or dried cranberries (which is also delicious served warm). You can also use soy or unsweetened almond milk.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Sweet-Flavored Greek Yogurt | Healthy Eating 2017
Sweet-Flavored Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt has less sugar than traditional yogurt, though the sweeter varieties flavored by fruits obviously still have some sugar. But it's also literally packed with probiotics, protein, potassium and other nutrients. For a little added crunch, stir in a small amount of sugar-free granola or crumbled sugar-free or low-sugar cookies. We like Key lime pie Greek yogurt with a couple of crumbled low-fat vanilla wafers or a square of graham cracker. Or you can opt for plain unsweetened Greek yogurt with some fresh or dried fruit.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Chocolate-Hazelnut Yogurt Dip | Healthy Eating 2017
Chocolate-Hazelnut Yogurt Dip

Mix half a serving of sugar-free chocolate-hazelnut spread (e.g., NutriLight) with half a serving of plain unsweetened Greek yogurt. Then pick a dipper like low-sugar cookies, crackers or fresh fruit (we recommend strawberries or Granny Smith apple slices).

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Low-Sugar Ice Cream or Sherbet | Healthy Eating 2017
Low-Sugar Ice Cream or Sherbet

Hop on the Halo Top bandwagon for a low-sugar alternative or seek out no-sugar-added sherbets. They do have some sugar, so stick with a single serving. If you're feeling it, melt a square of dark chocolate and drizzle it on. We really a wedge of dark chocolate orange over a scoop of orange sorbet.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Peanut Butter & 'Jelly' Crackers | Healthy Eating 2017
Peanut Butter & 'Jelly' Crackers

Smear a thin layer of sugar-free peanut butter on a saltine or Reduced-Fat Ritz cracker and cap it off with seedless red grape slices, dried cranberries or a strawberry slice. Five of those should be plenty to tide you over. Alone, five low-fat Ritz only have 2 grams of sugar and saltines are even better at 0.3 grams per five.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: 'Chocolate' or 'Strawberry' Milk or Cocoa | Healthy Eating 2017
'Chocolate' or 'Strawberry' Milk or Cocoa

Skip the full-sugar stuff you buy in gallon jugs and opt for a no-sugar-added powder for only 3 extra grams of sugar per 8-ounce glass. As an added bonus, you'll be getting a serving of calcium while quenching your confectionery thirst. If you opt for hot cocoa, just skip the marshmallows unless they're sugar-free. Fifteen mini marshmallows have a whopping 27 grams of sugar with next to no additional nutritional benefit. For a dairy-free option, use soy or unsweetened almond milk.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: 'Honey-Drizzled Nuts | Healthy Eating 2017
Honey-Drizzled Nuts

We all know a small handful of nuts is a high-protein powerhouse snack, but you can also satisfy your sweet tooth by drizzling them with a little honey or agave nectar. In a pinch, you can even use maple syrup (best on peanuts). And don't be afraid of lightly salted nuts. The salt actually brings out the flavor of the honey. Just remember that you'll probably want a spoon for this one… and maybe a napkin too.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: 'Spicy Neufchâtel & Fruit Dip | Healthy Eating 2017
Spicy Neufchâtel & Fruit Dip

Mix half a tablespoon of low-sugar jelly with a dash of cayenne pepper and mix it with 1 ounce of soften Neufchâtel cheese. Grab some whole-wheat pretzels or whole-grain crackers or even some celery and dip away. If you need a protein boost, you can top it with a couple of crushed pistachios.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Low-Sugar Fruit & Nut Bars | Healthy Eating 2017
Low-Sugar Fruit & Nut Bars

The keywords here are "low-sugar." Some granola and protein bars are absolutely laden with sugar. Instead, opt for something like Kind bars, which are chock-full of nutrients and come in so many flavor combinations, there's something for everyone. You can even do a mini- or half-bar for snacks and a full-size bar if that house salad you had for lunch because you were trying to be good isn't quite gonna do the trick until supper.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Fire Ants on a Log | Healthy Eating 2017
Fire Ants on a Log

This updated version of a childhood classic features sugar-free peanut butter smeared into celery ribs then topped with a line of dried cranberries. But if you're feeling nostalgic, by all means, use raisins instead.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Baby Food | Healthy Eating 2017
Baby Food

Hear us out. For parents to pre-chewing baby-kins, baby food is just something you have on hand, and as long as you have plenty, you can pick up some more for your little one later, so you're not taking food out of their mouths. But if you aren't a parent, you should know that baby food is a relatively inexpensive snack that comes preportioned in a pretty good snack-size container, and while the sweeter fruit flavors are definitely just as packed with natural sugars as their whole-fruit counterparts, they're also just as packed with nutrients. Don't be afraid to hit it with a shot of Reddi Whip Lite.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Hot Tea With Honey & Lemon | Healthy Eating 2017
Hot Tea With Honey & Lemon

Just add a teaspoon of honey and a squeeze of lemon to your favorite hot tea for a low-sugar treat to squelch that sweet sweets lust. As an added bonus, it'll warm you up on a cold day (or in a why-the-hell-is-it-so-freakin'-cold-in-here office).

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Fruit Leather

Skip that brand you had in your lunchbox as a kiddo and reach for one that has no sugar added. Like dried fruit, it does have sugar, but it also has vitamins and nutrients, meaning the nutritional value justifies the sugar content. And if you're so inclined, you can even DIY at home.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Sweet Potato 'Fries' (With Optional Creamy Honey Dip) | Healthy Eating 2017
Sweet Potato 'Fries' (With Optional Creamy Honey Dip)

If you're at home, you can bake up some sweet potato fries in a jiff. Just cut them into sticks, season with olive oil and salt and pepper and bake them until they're tender on the inside. Mix up a dipping sauce of equal parts reduced-fat sour cream and plain low-fat yogurt and a hint of honey and get to dipping.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Sweetened Cottage Cheese | Healthy Eating 2017
Sweetened Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is packed with protein and calcium and makes a healthy snack on its own. But if you're yearning for something sweet, try adding a few chunks of berries or other cuts of fruit. If that doesn't do the trick, drizzle on a little honey or agave nectar.

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Frozen Grapes | Healthy Eating 2017
Frozen Grapes

We've already covered that fruits are a good sweet snack, but if you freeze grapes, they're like little bite-size ice pops. Just make sure you rinse and dry them first so you can pull them straight out of the freezer. You don't even need to pull them off the vine first!

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Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Cinnamon Toast | Healthy Eating 2017
Cinnamon Toast

Whether you make it in the toaster then add the toppings or top it first then broil it in the oven, a slice of whole-wheat bread topped with a little butter or butter substitute and sprinkled lightly with sugar and (maybe heavily… your call) cinnamon will kick that yearning for sweetness to the curb.

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  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Fresh Fruit | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Dried Fruit | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Bite-Size Dark Chocolate | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Healthy Cereal With a Twist | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Sweet-Flavored Greek Yogurt | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Chocolate-Hazelnut Yogurt Dip | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Low-Sugar Ice Cream or Sherbet | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Peanut Butter & 'Jelly' Crackers | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: 'Chocolate' or 'Strawberry' Milk or Cocoa | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: 'Honey-Drizzled Nuts | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: 'Spicy Neufchâtel & Fruit Dip | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Low-Sugar Fruit & Nut Bars | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Fire Ants on a Log | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Baby Food | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Hot Tea With Honey & Lemon | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Fruit Leather | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Sweet Potato 'Fries' (With Optional Creamy Honey Dip) | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Sweetened Cottage Cheese | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Frozen Grapes | Healthy Eating 2017
  • Healthy Foods to Replace Candy: Cinnamon Toast | Healthy Eating 2017

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