Healthiest sweets: The best and worst sweets for a diet revealed

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  • Curious where your sugary treat ranks in the healthiest sweets scales? We’ve ranked all your favourites with some surprising results. 

    Sometimes we all crave a sugary kick. And just like the healthiest biscuits, we’re aware that sweets aren’t necessarily ‘healthy’, yet it’s good to know which are a smarter choice when wanting a good pick and mix munch.

    As Nutritionist Mina Khan, founder of Formulate Health understands: “It’s true that most sweets on the shelves in our supermarkets do contain high amounts of sugar and calories, providing very little nutritional value. However, there are healthier alternatives out there and even the unhealthiest of sweets can be enjoyed in moderation every now and again.”

    With this in mind we sought out some of the most popular sweets on the market and ranked them from best to worst based on their low-calorie content…

    What are the healthiest sweets?

    Midget Gems are the lowest calorie sweets in our round-up with one gem equating to 6.5 calories. Though the healthiest sweet overall, Werther’s Originals Sugar-free sweets unsurprisingly take the crown for the sweet with the best sugar content (<0.5g). So be sure to swap your regular packet for these when next at the checkout.

    an assortment of sweets on a pink background

    Credit: Getty

    • Healthiest sweets overall: Midget Gems
    • Best sweets for sugar content: Werther’s Originals Sugar-Free

    Whilst the least healthy sweets overall are Maynard’s Jelly Babies. These pocket-sized candy people contain double the NHS’s daily allowance on free sugar. Plus the whopping 348 calories per 12 sweets is a real turn-off, being the equivalent of a whole meal in some cases.

    • Unhealthiest sweets overall: Jelly Babies
    • Worst sweets for sugar content: Jelly Babies

    Healthy sweets ranked from best to worst:

    1. Healthiest sweets overall: Midget Gems

    midget gems

    Credit: Tesco

    Per 12 sweets –
    Cals: 78
    Sugar: 13g
    Fat: <0.1g
    Price: £1 for a 160g bag

    Verdict: They may be small, yet these Midget Gems are mighty, taking home the title of healthiest sweet overall. These little fruit gems are the lowest in calories and compared to other sweets in our round-up have a reasonable sugar content too. Just be wary of their tougher texture (compared to wine gums), that are more likely to get caught between your teeth.

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    2. Jealous Sweets’ Tangy Worms

    A packet of Jealous Sweets Tangy Worms

    Credit: Amazon

    Per bag (24g serving) –
    Cals: 81
    Sugar: approx 17g
    Fat: og
    Price: £12.99 for 16 shot bags

    Verdict: These low calorie sweets are a great-on-the-go pick-me-up when cravings rear their head. As Mina explains: “They do contain sugar and syrup, but the small bag size makes you far less likely to overindulge in them. They’re fat free and are suitable for vegans, vegetarians and those with dairy or gluten intolerances.” Despite their pros, these ‘shot’ bags don’t contain many tangy worms in their 24g serving. “I’d recommend eating them as a treat after you’ve had a healthy snack such as a banana or a smoothie that’s more likely to fill you up,” adds Mina.

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    3. Polos

    A close-up of a packet of polo sweets

    Credit: Alamy

    Per packet (34g serving) –
    Cals: 139
    Sugar: 32.9g
    Fat: trace
    Price: 60p for a single pack

    Verdict: Coming in at number 3 is our favourite mint, the Polo. You’ll only need a couple of mints to satisfy your craving, so you won’t need to eat the whole 32.9g of sugar in one sitting. And 3 mints work out as 18 calories in total – which is great for a speedy sugar hit. Even if you do eat the whole packet worth 139 calories it won’t affect your waistline too much. But we’d stick to a smaller serving size when dieting.

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    4. Werther’s Originals Sugar Free

    a bag of Werther's Originals

    Credit: Tesco

    Per bag (80g serving) –
    Cals: 290
    Sugar: <0.5g
    Fat: 8.8g
    Price: 97p

    Verdict: Nutritionist Mina Khan ranked these sugar free Werther’s as one of the healthiest sweets, as unsurprising these sugar-free sweets rank best for sugar content. “Instead of being made using large quantities of real butter, fresh cream and lots of sugar (like the original version), these Werther’s are made with smaller quantities of butter and cream, and are sweetened using Isomalt and Acesulfame-K instead of sugar,” she tells us. “These artificial sweeteners have caused some controversy over the years, however are safe and a much healthier alternative to sugary sweets when consumed in moderation.”

    These are a great option for those who love the taste of fudge, caramel or butterscotch. Especially as one of these sweets works out as 13 calories each, with a total of 18 in every 80g bag. But as with all treats, be sure to munch in moderation, as this number can add up. 

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    5. Fruit Pastilles

    fruit pastilles rank 4th in our healthiest sweets round-up

    Credit: Alamy

    Per packet (50g serving)  –
    Cals: 177
    Sugar: 30.7g
    Fat: trace
    Price: 60p

    Verdict: Fruit Pastilles have been around since 1881 and we think we know why – these sugar coated sweets contain 25% fruit juice, no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives and are impossible not to chew. However, Mina warns that that whilst pastilles do contain some fruit juice this is “somewhat outweighed by the large amounts of sugar” they contain. “Though the chewy texture can make them a really good option for those who are looking to lose weight, as they take a long time to eat, meaning you’re less likely to eat quite as many of them,” she adds. A 7-sweet portion works out at just under 100 calories which makes these a good choice when seeking low calorie sweets too. 

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    6. Lemon bon bons

    some lemon bon bons on a white background

    Credit: Alamy

    Per 4 bon bons –
    Cals: 96
    Sugar: 17g
    Fat: trace
    Price: £2.29 for a 200g tin

    Verdict: Bon bons (the French word for ‘good’ repeated) are great for a small, sweet treat with only 17g of sugar and under 100 calories. “Bonbons of any flavour take a long time to chew when compared with other types of sweets,” says Mina. “These chewy styles of sweets are often a dentist’s nightmare, but from a nutritional standpoint, they can be great for helping you to feel fuller for longer, as the added chewing can trick your brain into thinking you’ve eaten more than you have.”

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    7. Blackjacks

    Blackjack sweets

    Credit: Alamy

    Per 10 blackjacks –
    Cals: 130
    Sugar: approx 20g
    Fat: approx 1g
    Price: 30p for a 36g pack

    Verdict: These liquorice sweets are small delights of childhood. Yet most are surprised to learn that Blackjacks contain no aniseed in their ingredients whatsoever. Mina says these sweets aren’t the best option for those watching their weight. And that those who are dieting should instead seek out a healthier aniseed alternative that should similarly satisfy. “If you’re craving the taste of a blackjack, make yourself a nice cup of aniseed tea instead,” she advises. “This will definitely hit the spot when it comes to getting that aromatic liquorice flavour, without breaking your diet!”

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    8. Strawbs

    Haribo giant strawbs

    Credit: Tesco

    Per 40g serving –
    Cals: 139
    Sugar: 23g
    Fat: approx 0.20g
    Price: 30p for a 36g pack

    Verdict: Chewy, sweet strawberries sound great. But just because it looks like a fruit unfortunately, this variety doesn’t count towards your five-a-day. These Haribo Strawbs contain a huge amaount of sugar according to Mina, who suggests swapping for some real strawberries and a drizzle of cream instead. 

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    9. Cola cubes

    cola cube sweets

    Credit: Alamy

    Per 10 sweets –
    Cals: 140
    Sugar: 30g
    Fat: 0.7g
    Price: £3.99 for 400g tub

    Verdict: Cola cubes are a crunchy sweet with a fairly low calorie content. However hard boiled sweets are pretty much pure sugar (sugar water boiled down) which, combined with the crunch, puts your teeth at a higher risk. “If you love the taste of cola and are really craving a cola flavoured sweet, why not make up some ice cubes using diet coke?” suggests Mina. “These can be amazing to crunch on during a hot day and contain virtually no sugar or calories!”

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    10. Percy Pigs

    Percy pigs sweets

    Credit: Alamy

    Per 50g serving –
    Cals: 171
    Sugar: 29.4g
    Fat: 0.1g
    Price: £1

    Verdict: Don’t be fooled by the packaging is Mina’s words of wisdom with these M&S favourites which have a seriously high sugar count.  “I actually find the packaging on these sweets to be quite misleading. They state that they’re made with real fruit juice and contain no artificial sugars or sweeteners, making you think they’re a fairly healthy option. However the 3 main ingredients in Percy Pigs are glucose syrup, sugar and glucose-fructose syrup. For every Percy Pig you eat, you get 25 calories – so eat 10 and you’ve had over half your recommended sugar intake for the whole day. As Mina sums up: “Percy Pigs are super high in sugar and calories, which – when consumed regularly – is not a good combo for anyone trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.”

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    11. Cola bottles

    cola bottles in a glass jar

    Credit: Alamy

    Per serving (50g bag) –
    Cals: 176
    Sugar: 28g
    Fat: <1g
    Price: 25p

    Verdict: The cola bottle is a classic, retro, penny sweet and a staple for any pick ‘n’ mix stand. While these sweets are middle of the range when it comes to calories, they also contain additives which are bad for your health if eaten too often. So if you are going to indulge, make sure it’s more of a small handful.

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    12. Starburst

    a packet of starburst sweets

    Credit: Alamy

    Per serving (45g bag) –
    Cals: 182
    Sugar: 37.4g
    Fat: 3.3g
    Price: 60p

    Verdict: You might know Starburst by a more familiar name; Opal Fruits. These fruity chews may contain apple juice from concentrate, yet their sugar content is a cause for concern. The NHS recommends that adults consume no more than 30g of free sugars a day. And a whole pack of these is enough to take you over that daily sugar limit. As that famous saying goes – less is definitely more on this occasion.

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    13. Skittles

    skittle sweets

    Credit: Alamy

    Per serving (45g bag) –
    Cals: 182
    Sugar: 40.5g
    Fat: 1.9g
    Price: 60p

    Verdict: The taste of the rainbow is certainly a sugary one, with a huge 40.5g in a 45g portion bag. If you are going to finish the bag, then try not to scoff them soo fast. “I know from experience how easy it is to mindlessly eat 4 or 5 of these at a time, but when we do this we’re savouring them at all and it makes it very unlikely that they’ll leave us feeling full. Instead, I recommend eating them one at a time and really focusing on how they taste. If you’re doing to indulge – you might as well savour the moment!”

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    14. Marshmallows

    marshmallows

    Credit: Getty

    Per 10 sweets –
    Cals: 225
    Sugar: 40g
    Fat: trace
    Price: 95p for a 200g bag

    Verdict: According to Mina, marshmallows are definitely not the worst option when it comes to sweets. “They contain very little fat but are high in sugar – although reaching for a couple every now and again to satisfy your sweet tooth is unlikely to do too much damage.” There’s some surprising good health pros too. “Interestingly, one portion of marshmallows also contains a small amount of potassium and selenium which have some really powerful health benefits,” she adds.

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    15. Liquorice Allsorts

    liquorice all-sorts

    Credit: Alamy

    Per 10 sweets –
    Cals: 230
    Sugar: 40g
    Price: £1.50 for a 200g bag

    Verdict: In its purest herbal form, liquorice is said to have medicinal properties – like improving your immune system. But, as a processed sweet, that’s not so true. These Liquorice Allsorts are mostly sugar with a massive 40g of sugar in just 10 sweets. That’s again over the NHS recommended daily sugar allowance. So all-sorts are sadly one to skip when dieting.

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    16. Wine Gums

    a bag of wine gums

    Credit: Tesco

    Per 12 sweets –
    Cals: 234
    Sugar: 42g
    Fat: 0.6g
    Price: £1.50 for a 190 bag

    Verdict: Whilst midget gems took the title of healthiest sweets overall, their bigger sister Wine Gums are proven to be more bad than good in the sweets-stake. Packed with sugar, these Wine Gums will give you a sudden boost of energy but may leave you feeling tired and lethargic later on. Especially if you’re demolishing a whole bag. Why not swap for a handful of midget gems instead?

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    17. White chocolate mice

    white mice sweets

    Credit: Alamy

    Per 10 sweets –
    Cals: 270
    Sugar: 30g
    Price: £4.99 for a 500g bag

    Verdict: They might look cute and innocent but did you know that just ten of these is equal to 3 tablespoons of hummus, 2 whole carrots, 1 orange and an apple? For those wanting to stick to their diet, Mina suggests opting for dark chocolate instead. Dark chocolate’s health benefits include antioxidants and mood-boosting properties,” she adds.

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    18. Haribo Starmix

    gummy bears found in Haribo Starmix

    Credit: Getty

    Per 100g serving –
    Cals: 342
    Sugar: 47g
    Fat: <0.5g
    Price: 79p

    Verdict: Ah, the old classic that kids and adults alike can’t resist. We’d suggest sharing these particular treats too, as their sugar and calories are incredibly high. Plus the glucose in these gummy sweets will be stored in your body and, eventually, turn into fat. If you however, really can’t forgo these favourites then try buying the mini-sized packets to help with sugar cravings. 

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    19. Haribo Tangfastics

    Haribo tangfastics

    Credit: Alamy

    Per 100g serving –
    Cals: 346
    Sugar: 50g
    Fat: <0.5g
    Price: 79p

    Verdict: Unsurprisingly Tangfastics, the not-so-distant relatives of Haribo Starmix, are slightly worse thanks to their added sugar surface. A real bad sweet for your teeth, we recommend sharing a share bag between four, with the calories coming in at under 200 calories a person instead. 

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    20. Jelly Babies

    jelly babies

    Credit: Getty

    Per 12 sweets –
    Cals: 348
    Sugar: 60g
    Fat: <0.3g
    Price: £2.50 for 400g box

    Verdict: Though they may look cute and appealing, Jelly Babies are actually the unhealthiest sweet of our whole round up. “Packed full of sugar, syrup and beef gelatin, Jelly Babies are a big no-no for those trying to watch their weight,” Mina tells us. “Just 4 or 5 of these sweets will set you back around 100 calories. And how many of us can really just stick to a handful at a time?!” Those actively dieting should avoid these favourites at all costs. Otherwise be sure that Jelly Babies are more of a rare treat.

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