I generally eat healthily, but I do have a sweet tooth. Give me a bag of Hi-Chew, a Cow Tale, or a handful of Sour Patch Kids, and I’m tucking it in. I have at least a small handful of candy every night, and often a bit during the day, too. It’s a little reward I give myself — something to look forward to that’s not a glass of wine or a beer. But I know my candy habit might come with long-term consequences that outweigh short-term pleasure. Sugar is pretty horrible for the human body. According to Harvard Health Publishing, added sugar can raise blood pressure, increase inflammation, and cause weight gain. “We encourage people to consume less than 100 daily calories from added sugar (six teaspoons),” said dietitian Kristen Carli, MS, RD, of Camelback Nutrition & Wellness. “But even when that’s not possible, reduction is still beneficial.”
Over the past few years, I’ve supplemented traditional candy with healthier sweets that scratch the itch but are lower in sugar and made with more natural, even organic, ingredients. Armed with Carli’s notes and my own years of candy connoisseurship, I’ve found eight not-as-bad-for-you sweets to enjoy this Halloween and beyond.
From gummy bears to Sour Patch–like “Buddies,” I can say most of SmartSweets’ dupes are pretty damn good. But these Cola Gummies are my favorite. They legitimately curb my candy cravings despite the fact that a 50-gram bag contains just three grams of sugar — compare that to a 40-gram bag of Haribo Happy Cola, which has 17 grams of sugar, for some perspective.
I’d rather skip chocolate altogether than eat chocolate with that chemically artificial taste. There’s no artificial sweeteners here, despite there being just three grams of sugar per cup. That’s because a handful of organic ingredients, like organic dark chocolate, organic almond butter, organic white chocolate, and organic coconut, provide natural sweetness.
These little gummy treats look and taste like fruit snacks, but with a major difference — they’re actually fruit. Mango, orange, and some naturally derived ascorbic acid (vitamin C) are all that’s in each little delicious bite. And each packet contains an entire serving of fruit. “Solely candies are amazing!” Carli said. “This simple list of ingredients is so reassuring for parents of children with allergies.”
Cocomels are rich caramels that remind me of Rolos (but with about half the sugar). A ten-gram serving of Cocomels has 3.5 grams of sugar, while the same serving of Rolos would have over six grams. Plus, because the taste and texture of the Cocomels is so rich, the five-piece serving size is enough to satisfy. Made primarily from organic ingredients and free of dairy, gluten, or any artificial ingredients, these tasty little spheres are a great choice for anyone who wants a candy that really does taste like candy.
These are pretty much the only lollipops we allow our young daughter to have. Each Golly Lolli’s lollipop has only one gram of sugar and is made almost entirely out of organic ingredients. My favorite flavor is probably the Watermelon Wizard, as I can legitimately taste watermelon (I can’t taste “wizard,” but I’m good with that). I mean, this tastes like actual watermelon, not that fake flavor so many other candymakers have agreed upon (Jolly Ranchers, I’m looking at you). The other flavors — like Blue Raspberry and Fairytale Fruit — also taste like real fruit (despite the fact that neither actually exists).
“Raisels are a great whole-fruit option for candy,” says Carli, “[as] they do not contain any artificial flavors or sweeteners.” They come in flavors like Chili Limón Pineapple and Raspberry that make them more enticing than the classic raisin, yet still plenty sweet thanks to natural sugars. And if you want a significantly sweeter and intensely sour option, the brand also offers a line of “Sours” that really do taste entirely like candy. While the sour Raisels do have added sugars, at the core of each is still an actual raisin, which is an easy source of carbohydrates. Because of the intensity of their sweetness and sourness, I usually mix a packet of Raisels in with a handful of regular raisins as a quick afternoon power snack, especially when I want some extra energy before a run or ride, given the sugar and carbs.
YumEarth candy is a standout because they’re free from soy, fish, dairy, peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts, HFCS, and synthetic dyes. “Many young kids have food allergies that make partaking in [candy] challenging. These allergen-free candies offer a way for these kiddos to participate,” Carli said. Keep in mind, these aren’t low-sugar. A 70-calorie serving of these candy corns has 14 grams of sugar, which is actually almost exactly on par with a classic candy corn from the brand Brachs. But it’s an allergy-safe sweet that you can feel okay about handing out to trick-or-treaters.
These flavorful gummy bears have the consistency and texture of a classic gummy bear, but hardly any of the sweetness (admittedly an odd experience at first). That disconnect makes perfect sense—there’s no added sugar. The bit of sweetness that you will enjoy here comes from allulose, a sugar found in figs and raisins. “Scrummy Gummy Bears contain allulose, which is a natural form of sugar that is fairly rare,” says Carli. “Allulose does not get digested and used as fuel, but instead is excreted. Research shows that allulose can promote insulin sensitivity and blood-sugar maintenance.”
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