When you’re on a journey of improving your health, it can be frustrating during those times of year when we are surrounded by unhealthy foods. Of course, enjoying your favorite candy once in a while is fine! (Actually, we don’t view any foods as “bad”!)
Or maybe you’ve discovered a food allergy or sensitivity that now excludes all the candy treats you used to enjoy. Luckily there are many better for you candy options out there that can be great alternatives to your old favorites.
Whether you want to avoid high sugar, a food allergen or sensitivity, or low quality ingredients, there are great options to consider to still enjoy this sweet time of year! After reading this article, you’ll understand what to look for in better candy options and know which brands you can confidently enjoy.
What to look for in better for you candy
When I’m looking for candy or chocolate to try, I look for a few things on the label:
- Preferably 1 type of sugar (many candies – and other processed foods – can have 3-4 or more types of sugar!)
- contains no colors or only natural colors from foods (no artificial colors which have been linked to behavioral problems in kids)
- no preservatives (such as sodium benzoate or disodium EDTA)
- allergen information
Also, when you start looking for better candy brands you will notice different types of names for sweeteners listed on the label. It can be confusing to know what they mean, so here is a quick rundown of what you might see.
Sugars – what do they mean?
Each of these sugars are sucrose (aka white sugar) so they are metabolized the same way. But they’re processed slightly differently which is why they are labeled differently.
White sugar is the most common, go-to form that we use in our homes. It comes from sugar cane or beets and has been fully refined to create uniform, white crystals. It has the characteristically sweet taste we all know.
Cane sugar / evaporated cane juice comes from sugar cane and has been less processed than white sugar. The crystals are slightly tan because they still have trace amounts of molasses and have not been artificially bleached. They taste the same as white sugar.
Raw / turbinado sugar are the least refined types of sugar that comes from sugar cane. Some of the molasses is retained so the flavor is stronger than cane sugar. If you like molasses or caramel flavors, you’ll like items made with this sugar!
Coconut sugar is mostly sucrose (like cane sugar), but it has been less processed and is unbleached. It is made from the sap of coconut trees, so it has a stronger taste similar to brown sugar.
Tapioca syrup (made from cassava root) and brown rice syrup are entirely glucose. They’re added to processed foods and some gummy candies because of their thickening ability. They’re metabolized similarly to sucrose.
Now, on to the alternative sweeteners
These alternative sweeteners are not like the artificial sweeteners that are intensely sweet and harmful to health, such as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin.
Stevia is a sweetly flavored leaf so it doesn’t contain sugar. It also doesn’t raise blood sugar but still has a strong sweet taste. However, it does have an aftertaste that might be strong in some products.
Erythritol is a natural sugar alcohol that tastes as sweet as cane sugar but doesn’t raise blood sugar levels. It’s usually used in low/no sugar or no-carb foods because it’s sweet taste is satisfying without affecting blood sugar. In large amounts it can cause digestive upset (nausea, diarrhea, gas). It can be a good choice if you are avoiding sugar.
Note: Sugar alcohols are a type of carbohydrate that’s sweet but does not affect blood sugar as much, if at all. They also don’t promote cavities. (The word alcohol has to do with the shape of the molecule, not because there is any alcohol that we drink in it!)
Xylitol is another sugar alcohol yet it does slightly affect blood sugar levels. It has a strong sweet taste like erythritol, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Large amounts can cause digestive problems, such as diarrhea. It can be a good choice if you are avoiding sugar.
Allulose is a simple sugar that tastes similar to sugar. It is naturally found in figs, raisins, maple syrup and brown sugar. It’s made from corn on a larger scale. Allulose is starting to gain popularity in processed foods because it does not raise blood sugar levels and does not ferment in the gut, which can cause bloating, gas, and upset stomach. It might even help stabilize blood sugar after eating. It can be a good choice if you are avoiding sugar.
Brands to consider
Now that you have an idea of the types of ingredients to look for in better for you candy, let’s look at some better candy options!
If you want chocolate…
Skinny Dipped dark chocolate almonds (gf, df)
Free2Be sunbutter (peanut free)
Lily brand chocolate (sugar free)
Hu brand (dairy/gluten/soy free)
Taza chocolate (dairy/gluten/soy free) very dark chocolate!
No Whey – Allergen-free chocolate and candy
If you want gummies, lollipops, and similar…
Yum Earth (lollipops, skittles alternative, fruit snacks)
Surf Sweets (gummies)
Smart Sweets (gummies)
Hopefully you’ll find your new favorite candy among this list! Improving your health or avoiding certain foods does not mean you can’t have treats. It might take some experimenting with new versions of your old favorites, but you’ll eventually find new favorites that you’ll look forward to!
Good to know: With Halloween coming up it’s good to know about the Teal Pumpkin Project that makes trick-or-treating fun for kiddos with allergies or food restrictions. A teal pumpkin beside a door shows that there are non-food goodies available that are safe for all kids. Learn more about how to participate!