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Candy and Moderation

Moderation in Dietary Guidance                                    jelly beans in jar

Current dietary guidance from leading nutrition and health authorities recognizes that an eating pattern built upon evidence-based recommendations can include small amounts of extras. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics supports an approach of sensible discretion in its position that "all foods can fit within a healthful eating style, if consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with regular physical activity."

In the context of a total diet, no single food or type of food can ensure good heath, and none is necessarily detrimental to health either. Rather than target specific nutrients or foods to restrict or avoid; it is important to recognize the role of energy balance in healthful eating, with a focus on balancing food and physical activity.

MyPlate, the consumer messaging portion of the Dietaty Guidelines, encourages an overall healthful lifestyle, emphasizing the importance of maintaining calorie balance over time. The Guidelines advise reducing intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars, but also recognize that when nutrient-rich forms of foods are chosen, there is room in the daily diet for extras. A core message to "enjoy your food, but eat less" emphasizes portion control without the need to avoid any food entirely.

Specific to sweets, MyPlate advises that “it’s not necessary to eliminate sweets and desserts, just serve small portions.”

Tips for Implementing Candy in Moderation in Healthful Diets

  • Allow all foods. Research shows that restricting foods may increase their desirability and likelihood of overindulgence. Allowing small treats, such as candy, may help improve self-regulation of food intake.
  • Practice moderation in food choices and portions. Allow foods that may be highly palatable, such as candy, in 50-100 calorie portions per day, or balance out higher-calorie choices over the course of several days.
  • Share or save for later. For example, share a full-size bar or package of candy, or portion out 1/3 to ½ to enjoy now and save the rest for another day. Look for candy in re-sealable wrappers.
  • Enjoy holiday candy… with portions in mind. Help children sort through holiday candy, allowing them to enjoy a small portion of candy that day, and portion the rest in small snack-size bags.
  • Eat mindfully. Turn attention to the food being eaten—and experience taste, aroma, texture, and satisfaction. Take the time to enjoy the intense flavors of different candies, for example, let chocolate candy melt in your mouth.
  • Listen to the body’s signals for hunger, such as a growling stomach, without relying on the clock. Allow the feeling of hunger, but don’t get overly hungry, which may lead to unhealthy eating or over-eating. Try chewing gum to stave off feelings of hunger.

NCA’s Treat Smarts brochure provides additional tips on eating candy in moderation.

Additional Resources

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