10 Better-for-You Candies to Keep You Out of Your Kids’ Halloween Stash

Beth Lipton
October 11, 2021
children trick or treating on halloween
shutterstock trick or treat halloween

If you simultaneously love Halloween (the costumes!) and dread the influx of candy into your home (the empty calories!), we feel you. Even if you don’t have much trouble resisting sweets most of the time, it’s so much harder when your kids have those plastic pumpkins brimming with candy, you have a gigantic half-bag of leftover candy from trick or treaters, or you’re dealing with both at once.

It doesn’t help that, along with candy’s innately attractive qualities, there’s also the nostalgia factor: there’s something about eating candy around Halloween that brings us right back to the fun of getting dressed up and running around the neighborhood, knocking on doors with your friends. 

So rather than futilely trying to avoid all candy at this time of year, which feels kind of impossible (or pretty sad if you actually achieve it) we think it makes more sense to lean into the season. Enjoy some candy! But be good to yourself by making sure it’s made with higher-quality ingredients, less sugar, and no artificial flavors and colors. There may be no such thing as truly healthy Halloween candy, but with these treats, you can indulge in the season a little — and not feel terrible later. 

1. If you crave: M&Ms | Try: Unreal Chocolate Gems

These colorful, candy-coated chocolate pieces are absolutely the grown-up answer to childhood favorite M&Ms. Available in milk chocolate, dark chocolate with crispy quinoa, and dark chocolate with peanuts, they’re made with Fair Trade-certified chocolate, free of artificial dyes, soy-free, and far lower in sugar than their predecessor. However, they’re still bright and colorful — and have the same super-satisfying crackle.

(Unreal Gems; $23 for three 5-ounce bags)

2. If you crave: Nestle’s Crunch | Try: Hu Vanilla Crunch Dark Chocolate

If you were the kid who traded gooey, fluffy Milky Ways for the satisfying snap of a Nestle’s Crunch or Hershey’s Krackel, we see you. This grownup version by Hu Kitchen will scratch that same itch. Made with organic 70% chocolate and puffed quinoa for crunch, it’s dairy free, has no refined sugar, no palm oil, and no soy lecithin. Just rich chocolatey goodness with plenty of crunch.

(Hu Vanilla Crunch Dark Chocolate; $22 for four 2.1-ounce bars)

3. If you crave: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups | Try: Skinny Dipped Peanut Butter Cups

Peanut butter cups are another Halloween classic — we’ll go so far as to say that they’re among the most sought-after in the plastic pumpkin. We love Skinny Dipped’s version for several reasons: they have less than half the sugar of the originals (thanks to a mix of maple sugar, cane sugar, and allulose), and the peanut butter-to-chocolate ratio is perfect, in our opinion: it’s got the exact right sweet-salty balance. Plus, they’re available in both milk and dark chocolate.

(Skinny Dipped Peanut Butter Cups; $19 for four 3.2-ounce bags)

If you crave: Gummy Candies | Try: SmartSweets Fruity Gummy Bears

If fruity, chewy candies are your jam, this one’s for you: these have 80% less sugar than traditional gummies, thanks to being sweetened with a combination of allulose and monk fruit. They also have no artificial colors, are nut-, soy-, and gluten-free, and they still bring super-bright flavors (namely peach, apple, raspberry, and lemon). SmartSweets also has gummy worms, sour gummies, Swedish fish, peach rings, and more.

(SmartSweets Fruity Gummy Bears; $27 for twelve 1.8-ounce bags)

If you crave: Snickers | Try: Ocho Caramel & Peanut Bars

Caramel, peanuts, and peanut butter nougat, all covered with milk chocolate — this might be the MVP of Halloween candies, the one your big brother would not trade, even for all of the other chocolates in your bag. Ocho’s version has an extremely similar taste and the same amazing texture combination, and it’s organic, gluten-free, and made with Fair Trade Certified cocoa. (Ocho also makes a peppermint-filled bar if you’re usually grabbing the peppermint patties, and a coconut bar if Mounds is your thing — check out the sample pack). 

(Ocho Caramel & Peanut Bars; $24 for 12 1.5-ounce bars)

If you crave: Lollipops | Try: Dr. John’s Healthy Sweets Lollipops

One of our favorite post-trick or treating memories is dumping out the plastic pumpkin and sorting the loot, and you had to have a lollipop in your mouth while you did it (#science). But now, we have to think about our teeth, so lollipops are pretty much out. Or are they? Dr. John’s are sugar-free, made without artificial dyes, flavors, or sweeteners, but they’re still bright and pretty, and available in all kinds of flavors. Of course there are classics like strawberry, orange, and watermelon, or you can go for more interesting creamsicle, mango, pink grapefruit, and pomegranate. They’re sweetened with xylitol and erythritol, so you can enjoy the flavor without worrying about cavities.

(Dr. John’s Healthy Sweets Lollipops; $9 for 14)

If you crave: SweeTarts | Try: Glee Tarts

The first time we tried these, we couldn’t believe they’re actually sugar free. They look just like Smarties and dissolve into tangy, sweet-sour sand in your mouth just like SweeTarts, but they’re made with xylitol. They’re super cute, and they come in bold, bright flavors like meyer lemon, pineapple, passion fruit, and cherry, without artificial coloring or flavoring. The hardest part is not eating the whole box at once. 

(Glee Tarts; $5 for a .56-ounce box)

If you crave: Caramel | Try: Cocomel Caramels

Soft, chewy caramels are so rich and luscious. But the plastic-wrapped ones we grew up on are loaded with corn syrup and palm oil, plus artificial flavor, so they’re best avoided. Thankfully, there are Cocomels, which fit the bill. With coconut milk, brown rice syrup, and just a few other ingredients, they manage to be sweet, chewy, and satisfying, but with nearly half the sugar and two-thirds the calories of the classic brand. There’s also a sugar-free version, made with monk fruit and allulose. All the flavors (classic, sea salt, vanilla, espresso, etc.) are free of dairy and soy.

(Cocomel Caramels; $9 for a 3.5-ounce bag)

If you crave: White chocolate | Try: Evolved Keto White Chocolate Bar

Look, we know that white chocolate is controversial, but we don’t believe in yucking anyone else’s yum. So if you’re a white chocolate fan, you’re in a safe space here, and we have a better-for-you option: these creamy bars by Evolved. Organic, soy-, and gluten-free, they’re made with just five wholesome ingredients, including Rainforest Alliance Certified cacao butter and monk fruit. This is a bar to savor unapologetically — and Evolved makes fantastic dark chocolate bars for those who prefer that, too.

(Evolved Keto White Chocolate Bar; $5 for a 2.5-ounce bar)

If you crave: Twizzlers or Red Vines | Try: Panda Red Licorice

There was always that house that gave out Twizzlers, and always that friend who had to go there. If that was you, here’s your new fave, minus the artificial dyes and corn syrup. Available in strawberry or raspberry, these red licorice bites are made with real fruit concentrate and molasses, and they’re vegan. 

(Panda Red Licorice; $6 for a 7-ounce bag)

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