If you’ve been to any grocery store or ventured onto Amazon lately, you don’t need a calendar to know Valentine’s Day is on the way. It’s a time to tell your people you love them and one of the ways we do this is by showering them with sweet treats. If it comes shaped in a heart or taped to a Valentine, you just know it’s gonna be tasty.
Indulging in Valentine’s Day candy isn’t wrong but if you don’t want to blow your daily calories in one sitting, don’t despair — there are treats out there you can still enjoy. Here are some of our top picks:
Peanut M&M’s are delicious, we all know that. Though they’re a high-calorie snacks (250 calories per serving), they contain five grams of protein, which means you’ll feel full longer and may not reach for that heart-shaped box of chocolates right afterwards. Peanut M&Ms are lower in sugar than a lot of other candy, too, because most of the calories come from the peanuts. If you don’t like peanuts or have a peanut allergy, there are also Pretzel M&Ms. They don’t have as much protein but aren’t as bad for you as ones that are entirely filled with chocolate.
Dove Dark Chocolate Hearts are the perfect Valentine’s Day treat for anyone who is calorie-conscious. Dark chocolate is rich in minerals like iron, magnesium, and zinc. The cocoa in dark chocolate also contains antioxidants called flavonoids, which are good for your heart. These little candies come individually wrapped and are the perfect size for indulging without the guilt. Dark chocolate also contains less sugar than milk chocolate which means slightly less calories.
If you’re sensing a theme here, you’re onto something. All the benefits listed above when it comes to dark chocolate make putting it on fruit even better. Strawberries are called “nature’s candy” for a reason because they are naturally sweet and are a great substitute for candy when that urge takes over. The fruit has approximately 50 calories per cup and no added sugar. Dipping them in melted dark chocolate lets you control the amount of chocolate on each one and delivers a perfect bite in the meantime. You can also do the same with almonds if you need some crunch.
Smarties are one of the lowest in calories, sugar, and fat with only 25 calories and 6 grams of sugar per package. While they’re not the most exciting candy on the market, they are a good choice both from a health perspective and a good option if you don’t love chocolate. Plus, if you eat each little tablet one at a time they last much longer than, say, a fun-sized Twix (which is unfortunately one of the worst out there from a calorie/fat perspective).
The combination of peanut butter and chocolate is a match made in heaven for many. Reese’s cups contain 2.5 grams of protein and (a small amount of) fiber so you’ll stay full longer. They are also very rich, so you can eat one or two cups and feel like you’ve indulged appropriately enough for the holiday. What’s more, Reese’s come in packs of two, single-serve, and in bite-sized cups so you can decide how much you want to consume and, if you’ve got willpower of steel, you can even same some for later.
Another good option for non–chocolate lovers, a Blow Pop has less sugar than many other candies out there and only contain 70 calories per pop. Plus, you can enjoy Blow Pops over a longer period of time because you have to lick them to get to the gum center. Plus, you then have gum to enjoy when you’e done with the Pop itself. They come in several flavors too so you can nosh on watermelon, strawberry, green apple, and cherry to your heart’s content.
Of course, as long as you aren’t overdoing it every single day, Valentine’s Day is a perfect excuse to indulge in your favorite candy. Depriving yourself all of the time will eventually backfire and you’ll end up eating way more than you would if you let yourself have exactly what you want in moderation. Sweet foods activate the reward centers of our brain and lessen the body’s stress response, according to an article published in Stress. After the year we’ve all had, this Valentine’s Day may be one day to throw caution to the wind and just enjoy yourself.
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