Sweets aren’t meant to be healthy. But the idea that most candy, chocolate, gum, and other packaged snacks are filled with petrochemicals and genetically modified ingredients is just disturbing. Not to mention, completely unnecessary.
Yes, candy made from truly natural ingredients can still lead to cavities and sugar-related health issues. But at the very least, these healthier ingredients are safer than the artificial junk found in traditional candy. Natural candy also tastes just as good, if not better, than the harmful crap.
Next time you or the kids have a sugar craving, try some healthier versions of your favorite candy and see if you can tell the difference. You may have trouble finding healthier candy at your regular supermarket, but you should have no problem finding it in a health food store or online.
Here are a few tips on what to avoid and what to look for on the labels…
In this article
- Choosing healthier ingredients
- Natural candy alternatives made from “real food” ingredients
- Avoiding synthetic ingredients
- Avoiding genetically modified (GMO) ingredients
- Good to know
Choosing healthier ingredients
Look for a short and easy-to-read list of ingredients that you recognize. And in place of highly processed sweeteners (such as white sugar and corn syrup), choose natural candies or treats that list unprocessed sweeteners such as raw cane sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, or honey on the ingredients list.
Also read: Healthier Alternatives to White Sugar
A note on white sugar
Some white sugar starts out as cane sugar before it’s chemically processed. But most white sugar today comes from genetically modified beets… and then it’s chemically processed. Yikes!
While the stevia plant is completely natural, it requires heavy processing to become the sweetener found on shelves and in foods. That said, stevia is the least synthetic of the no-calorie sweeteners available today, so do choose it over other artificial sweeteners, if you cannot (or choose not to) consume other natural sweeteners.
Instead of artificial flavors and colors, choose candy and treats that are colored and flavored with real food such as fruits, vegetables, and their extracts. For example, look for natural colorants such as purple carrots, black currants, and pomegranates. And natural flavor ingredients such as lemon extract, oil of wintergreen, vanilla bean or ginger extract.
Keep in mind that real food is not meant to last for years. Instead of adding chemical preservatives, truly natural candies and foods will often have an expiration date stamped on the label. This is a good thing!
Natural candy alternatives made from “real food” ingredients
Once you go natural, it’ll be tough to go back to the “regular” stuff. Personally, I can taste the difference immediately. It’s not only that the natural candy tastes so much better; it’s that the not-natural candy tastes, well… unnatural. And it’s a huge turnoff.
I posted (above and below) a few natural candy alternatives that I’ve actually tried myself. I wish I could tell you which I like best, but it kinda depends on what I’m in the mood for that day. They’re all pretty delish. 🙂
Avoiding synthetic ingredients
Artificial ingredients are derived from petroleum and/or chemicals and are linked to a wide range of health and behavioral issues. Look for words like “No artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives” on the label.
Be wary of candy that lists “natural flavors and colors” on the label without qualifying exactly what makes them natural. An ingredient of “natural flavors and colors” is often a hidden mix of ingredients that, despite its safe-sounding name, may include chemicals and genetically modified crops.
Makers of truly natural candy will happily tell you what their natural flavors and colors do and do not contain. For example, you may see “natural flavor (cherries)” and “natural colors (blueberries)”.
Avoiding genetically modified (GMO) ingredients
It’s worth repeating that you should avoid candy that lists just plain “sugar” on the label, because most sugar actually comes from genetically modified sugar beets rather than sugar cane. Instead, look for candy that specifically lists raw cane sugar, evaporated cane juice or sugar from Israeli sugar beets.
Most corn, soy, and canola in the U.S. is also genetically modified. Avoid candy that lists high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin or canola oil on the label. However, you can safely choose candy and foods with those same ingredients… if they are specifically listed as “organic” or “non-GMO”.
Good To Know
- Candy that is labeled as 100% Organic will not contain any synthetic ingredients.
- Candy labeled as Organic (and not specifically 100% Organic) may contain some synthetic ingredients (up to 5%). However, it will still not contain any GMOs.
- Candy that carries the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal has been independently tested to ensure the food is free from genetically modified ingredients.