17 Healthy and Delicious Alternatives to Candy
Candy is popular worldwide but mostly made from sugar, artificial flavors, and food dyes, which provide calories but very little nutrition.
In fact, eating it may increase your risk of cavities, obesity, and type 2 diabetes (1Trusted Source).
If you're craving sweets but want to stick to a balanced diet, there are plenty of treats you can indulge in instead of processed candy bars.
Here are 17 healthy and delicious alternatives to candy.
1. Fresh Fruit
For example, 1 cup (144 grams) of strawberries provides only 46 calories but 3 grams of fiber and 94% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin C (4).
2. Dried Fruit
Because it's dehydrated, dried fruit is highly concentrated in nutrients and sugar, making it even sweeter and calorie-denser than fresh fruit — so be mindful of your portions.
You can find almost any fruit dried, but make sure your product doesn't contain added sugars.
3. Homemade Popsicles
Homemade popsicles give you all the benefits of fruit without the extra sugar and artificial ingredients of packaged varieties.
To prepare them, simply blend your choice of fruit with water, juice, or milk. Pour the mixture into popsicle molds or plastic cups, place a popsicle stick in the center of each, and freeze overnight.
If you prefer a creamy texture, blend with yogurt instead — or simply insert a popsicle stick straight into a yogurt cup and freeze for a quick dessert.
4. ‘Nice Cream’
"Nice cream" refers to fruit-based ice cream, which you can make by blending frozen fruit with optional add-ins — like peanut butter, honey, or coconut milk — and freezing the mix.
Here's an easy recipe to get you started:
Strawberry-Banana 'Nice Cream'
- 1 large, peeled, frozen banana
- 1 cup (144 grams) of frozen strawberries
Cut the banana into slices and the strawberries into halves. Pulse in a food processor until smooth, scraping the sides when necessary.
5. Frozen Fruit
At home, you can freeze fruit with yogurt for a quick, simple snack.
- 1/2 cup (148 grams) of blueberries
- 1/2 cup (200 grams) of low-fat Greek yogurt
- Cover a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Stab a blueberry with a toothpick and dip it into the yogurt, making sure it gets fully coated.
- Place the yogurt-covered blueberry on the baking sheet.
- Repeat with the rest of the berries and freeze overnight.
6. Fruit and Veggie Chips
Fruit and veggie chips are cut into thin slices before being baked, which gives them their characteristic crunchy texture.
Instead of choosing store-bought options that may harbor added sugar and preservatives, make your own fruit and veggie chips by following one of these recipes.
7. Homemade Fruit Leather
Homemade fruit leather is a sweet and chewy treat loaded with nutrients.
You can use any fruit you want — but choosing high-sugar options, such as mangoes, means you won't have to add too much sweetener.
Mango Fruit Leather
- 2–3 cups (330–495 grams) of mangoes
- 2–3 tablespoons (15–30 ml) of honey
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of lemon juice
- Blend the mangoes in a blender or food processor until smooth.
- Add honey and lemon juice and blend a little more.
- Pour the mixture into a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spread to 1/8–1/4-inch (0.3–0.6-cm) thickness.
- Bake at 140–170°F (60–77°C) or the lowest temperature on your oven for 4–6 hours.
- Allow to cool, then remove from the tray.
- Cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) strips and wrap with parchment paper before rolling them up.
8. Energy Balls
Oats, nut butter, flax seeds, and dried fruits are the most common ingredients. However, you can mix in almost anything you want, from protein powder to chocolate chips.
Nevertheless, they pack a lot of calories, so try to limit yourself to one or two at a time.
Coconut-Dusted Energy Balls
- 1/2 cup (72 grams) of raw almonds
- 1/2 cup (58 grams) of raw walnuts
- 1 cup (73 grams) of raisins
- 3 pitted dates
- 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1 cup (93 grams) of shredded coconut
Finely chop the almonds and walnuts in a food processor, then add the rest of the ingredients — except the coconut — and pulse until you get a sticky mixture.
Form 1-inch (2.5-cm) balls with your hands, then roll them in shredded coconut until fully coated.
9. Homemade Honey-Roasted Nuts
Nuts are packed with unsaturated fatty acids, which may promote heart health by reducing heart disease risk factors. In fact, research suggests that eating nuts may lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by 3–19% (11Trusted Source).
They're also high in fiber, high-quality protein, and beneficial plant compounds (12Trusted Source).
Roasting nuts with honey makes a perfect sweet-and-salty treat. Try this recipe for your next candy replacement.
10. Dark-Chocolate Coconut Chips
Dark chocolate is known for its high levels of antioxidants, which may improve heart health, brain function, and insulin sensitivity (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
The sweetness of coconut chips masks the slight bitterness of dark chocolate, making a crunchy treat that can be eaten alone or used as a topping for yogurt.
You can make dark-chocolate-covered coconut chips at home by following this recipe, or you can purchase them pre-made — in which case you should check the ingredient list to avoid added sugars.
11. Dark-Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
Dark-chocolate-covered strawberries are another way to reap dark chocolate's benefits.
To prepare them, dip these berries in melted dark chocolate. Place on wax paper and freeze for 15–20 minutes.
12. Trail Mix
Trail mix typically combines nuts, seeds, grains, dried fruit, and chocolate, providing you with fiber, protein, and many beneficial plant compounds.
However, store-bought options may be loaded with added sugar, so it's best to make your own.
For a healthy, homemade version, mix cashews, cranberries, pretzels, pumpkin seeds, and dark chocolate chips.
13. Sugar-Baked Chickpeas
Chickpeas, which are also called garbanzo beans, are rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Moreover, they may boost heart health and reduce your risk of certain conditions, including type 2 diabetes (22Trusted Source).
For a chickpea-based treat, try this simple recipe.
- 1 cup (164 grams) of cooked chickpeas
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon (8 grams) of ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of salt
Preheat your oven to 400°F (204°C) and bake the chickpeas for 15 minutes. In a bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
Remove chickpeas from the oven, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with the cinnamon topping. Stir until fully coated and bake for another 15 minutes.
14. Healthy Cookie Dough
Edible cookie dough is an egg-free batter that makes a scrumptious snack.
For a healthy version, use chickpeas instead of flour to increase the fiber and protein content (23Trusted Source).
Chickpea-Based Edible Cookie Dough
- 1 cup (164 grams) of cooked chickpeas
- 3 tablespoons (45 grams) of brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (65 grams) of natural peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons (45 grams) of oats
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of skim milk
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda
- a pinch of salt
- a handful of chocolate chips
In a food processor, blend all the ingredients except the chocolate chips. When smooth, place the dough in a bowl and mix in the chocolate chips.
15. Avocado-Chocolate Pudding
You can make a creamy pudding by blending this fruit with just a few simple ingredients, such as cocoa powder and a sweetener of your choice. For example, this recipe uses maple syrup for a delectable treat.
16. Baked Apples
Apples are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other plant compounds.
One medium-sized apple (182 grams) packs 17% of the DV for fiber, 9% of the DV for vitamin C, and powerful plant compounds, including polyphenols that may protect against chronic disease (30).
To make baked apples, cut them into chunks, add a bit of melted coconut oil and cinnamon, and bake for 20–30 minutes at 350°F (176°C).
17. Homemade Gummies
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. Its main purpose is to help tissues resist stretching (33Trusted Source).
It offers multiple health benefits, especially for your joints and skin, and is present in some animal parts, such as pork or chicken skin and beef or chicken bones (34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source).
This ingredient is often used to make gummies. Though store-bought versions usually contain added sugar, you can make your own at home using just fruit juice and honey.
Check out this recipe for tart cherry gummies if you want to give them a try.
The Bottom Line
Plenty of delicious, healthy treats can replace candy in your diet.
Candy is often loaded with sugar and additives, so you should avoid it whenever possible.
The next time you crave something sweet, try making yourself a nutritious treat from ingredients you have on hand.
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By Robert J. Orth, Jonathan Lefcheck and Karen McGlathery
A century ago Virginia's coastal lagoons were a natural paradise. Fishing boats bobbed on the waves as geese flocked overhead. Beneath the surface, miles of seagrass gently swayed in the surf, making the seabed look like a vast underwater prairie.
Why Didn’t Seagrasses Recover Naturally?<p>Development, nutrient runoff and other human impacts have damaged marshes, mangroves, coral reefs and seagrasses in many bays and estuaries worldwide. Loss or shrinkage of these key habitats has reduced commercial fisheries, increased erosion, made coastlines more vulnerable to floods and storms and harmed many types of aquatic life. Rapid climate change has compounded these effects through <a href="https://theconversation.com/ocean-warming-has-fisheries-on-the-move-helping-some-but-hurting-more-116248" target="_blank">rising global temperatures</a>, more <a href="https://theconversation.com/more-frequent-and-intense-tropical-storms-mean-less-recovery-time-for-the-worlds-coastlines-123335" target="_blank">frequent and severe storms</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/as-climate-change-alters-the-oceans-what-will-happen-to-dungeness-crabs-61501" target="_blank">ocean acidification</a>.</p><p>In the late 1990s, local residents told two of us who are longtime students of seagrasses (Robert "JJ" Orth and Karen McGlathery) that they had spotted small patches of eelgrass in shallow waters off Virginia's eastern shore. For years the conventional view had been that seagrasses in this area had not recovered from the events of the 1930s because human activities had <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aquabot.2005.07.007" target="_blank">made the area inhospitable for them</a>.</p><p>But studies showed that water quality in these coastal bays was <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02782971" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">comparatively good</a>. This led us to explore a different explanation: Seeds from healthy seagrass populations elsewhere along the Atlantic coast simply weren't reaching these isolated bays. Seagrasses are underwater flowering plants, so seeds are among the main ways they reproduce and spread to new environments.</p>
Eelgrass beds were restored in four bays at the southern tip of Virginia's eastern shore on the Atlantic coast. David J. Wilcox/VIMS, CC BY-ND
Sowing a New Crop<p>From our <a href="https://doi.org/10.2307/1941597" target="_blank">earlier research</a>, we knew that when eelgrass seeds fall from the parent plant, they sink to the sea bottom quickly and don't move far from where they land. We also knew that these seeds don't germinate until late fall or early winter. This meant that if we collected the seeds in spring, when eelgrass flowers, we could hold them until the fall, helping them survive over the months in between.</p><p>We decided to try reseeding eelgrass in the areas where they were missing. Starting in 1999, we collected seeds by hand from underwater meadows in nearby Chesapeake Bay – plucking the long reproductive shoots, bringing them back to our laboratory and holding them in large outdoor seawater tanks until they released their seeds naturally. After about 10 years we started gathering the grasses using a custom-built underwater "lawn mower" to collect many more of the reproductive shoots than we could by hand.</p><p>In 2001 we sowed our first round by simply tossing seeds from a boat. Our first test plots covered 28 acres of mud flats in waters 2 to 3 feet deep. Returning the following year, we saw new seedlings sprouting up.</p><p>Each year since then, the <a href="https://www.vims.edu/" target="_blank">Virginia Institute of Marine Science</a> and the <a href="https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/virginia/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nature Conservancy's Virginia Coast Reserve</a>, along with staff and students from the <a href="https://www.vcrlter.virginia.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Virginia</a>, have led a team of scientists and citizens to collect and seed a combined 536 acres of bare bottom in several coastal bays.</p><p>These initial plots took off and rapidly expanded. By 2020 they covered 9,600 acres across four bays. Several factors helped them flourish. These bays are naturally flushed with cool, clean water from the Atlantic Ocean. And they lie off the tip of Virginia's eastern shore, where there is little coastal development.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a482c2146febd6782c99960c2b55feb8"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K9NyfPLINtk?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Sheltering Marine Life and Storing Carbon<p>Since eelgrass disappeared from these bays in the 1930s, human understanding of seagrass ecosystems has evolved. Today people don't pack their walls full of seagrass insulation but instead value different services they provide, such as habitat for fish and shellfish – including many <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12645" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">commercially and recreationally important species</a>.</p><p>Scientists and government agencies also have recognized the importance of coastal systems in capturing and storing so-called "<a href="https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/bluecarbon.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">blue carbon</a>." In fact, we now know that seagrasses constitute a globally significant <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1477" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon sink</a>. They are a key tool for reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-64094-1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">slowing climate change</a></p><p>We are working to understand the valuable services that our restored seagrass beds provide. To our surprise, fish and invertebrates returned within only a few years as the meadows expanded. These organisms have established extensive food webs that include species ranging from tiny seahorses to 6-foot-long sandbar sharks.<br></p><p>Other benefits were equally dramatic. Water in the bays become clearer as the seagrass canopy trapped floating particles and deposited them onto the bottom, burying significant stocks of carbon and nitrogen in sediments bound by the grasses' roots. Our research is the first to verify the overall net carbon captured by seagrass, and is now being used to issue carbon offset credits that in turn <a href="https://vaseagrant.org/eelgrass-carbon-credits/" target="_blank">create more funds for restoration</a>.</p><p>One big question was whether restoring seagrasses could make it possible to bring back bay scallops, which once generated millions of dollars for the local economy. Since bay scallops no longer existed in Virginia, we obtained broodstock from North Carolina, which we have <a href="https://chesapeakebaymagazine.com/return-of-the-bay-scallop/" target="_blank">reared and released annually</a> since 2013. Regular surveys now reveal a growing population of bay scallops in the restored eelgrass, although there is still some way to go before they reach levels seen in the 1930s.</p>
Restored seagrass beds (dark areas) along Virginia's Atlantic coast, with sunlight reflecting from a small island. Jonathan Lefcheck, CC BY-ND
A Model for Coastal Restoration<p>Repairing damaged ecosystems is such an urgent mission worldwide that the United Nations has designated 2021-2030 as the <a href="https://www.decadeonrestoration.org/" target="_blank">U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration</a>. We see the success we have achieved with eelgrass restoration as a prime model for similar efforts in coastal areas around the world.</p><p>Our project focused not only on reviving this essential habitat, but also on charting how restoring seagrasses affected the ecosystem and on the co-restoration of bay scallops. It provides a road map for involving scholars, nonprofits organizations, citizens and government agencies in an ecological mission where they can see the results of their work.</p><p>Recent assessments show that the restored zone only covers about 30% of the total habitable bottom in our project area. With continued support, eelgrass – and the many benefits it provides – may continue to thrive and expand well into the 21st century.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
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