Last year, I ran an advocacy program called Green Halloween which helped over a million moms around the country make better, healthier choices with regard to what candy they bought and served. I know firsthand what a massive business candy is, particularly at this time of year.
Despite high sales, recent research suggests that being choosy about what candy we serve (and don’t serve), feed (and don’t feed) our children matters as there are some basic candy ingredients that some doctors are calling killers. And yes, they lurk underneath some of the most beloved candy wrappers.
According to two prominent Doctors, Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Robert Lustig, injesting large quantities of processed sweets can lead directly to a host of health concerns including obesity, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimers and more.
They say these sweeteners are as addictive as cocaine. To make matters worse, according to Dr. Hyman, we give these substances to our children in massive doses that haven’t ever been seen before in human history.
Frightening, right? I mean we all grew up on Halloween and candy is kind of like ice cream….Are we really supposed to forgo Halloween all together? (That’s never gonna fly in my house.) Before panic set in, I took a look at the five best-selling candies: Snickers, M&Ms, Reese’s, Hershey’s and Kit Kats in order to see how bad they really are to eat.
Below are the ingredients labeled in a cautionary red, orange and green convention according to LabelWatch, an organization established to help consumers review ingredients in processed foods.
Obviously Dr. Hyman, Dr. Lustig and others would not give High Fructose Corn Syrup or Sugar passing ratings. The Center for Science in the Public Interest also has a list of food additives to watch for and avoid which sites many of these same ingredients and more.
This research uncovered a lot of troubling ingredients in candy. Below are the highlights:
Almost all of these candies contain “artificial flavors” which can contain scores of other chemicals and additives which do not have to be disclosed or labeled; there are no restrictions around what can be used as artificial flavoring in food, according to the Feingold Association.
The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup which has no artificial flavor contains TBHQ, which can sometimes be claimed as an “antioxidant” because, as a preservative, it prevents the candy from oxidizing but is really in fact a petroleum product derivative and form of butane.
Most of them contain PGPR (polyglycerol polyricinoleate) which is derived from castor oil and used as an emulsifier instead of cocoa butter as it is much cheaper to produce. U sing manufactured PGPR allows candy producers to lower the actual cocoa content in their products.
M&Ms contain artificial colors. Given the variety and colors consuming M&Ms exposes eaters to dyes that have been linked to or associated with hyperactivity, asthma, skin rashes, migraines, gastro-intestinal issues and more.
Vanillin, an ingredient in the Hershey’s Bar and the Kit Kat, is a fake Vanilla flavor derived from the dregs of the paper-making process.
And we haven’t even touched the fact that all of these candies are made with numerous Genetically Engineered ingredients and also contain hormones passed along from the conventionally sourced milk ingredients. In fact many of these ingredients and processes aren’t allowed in countries around the European Union, Canada and Asia.
This exercise makes it clear that candy is loaded with fillers and ingredients that don’t nourish our bodies and in some cases can cause outright damage.
But lets face it, Halloween is the single biggest candy holiday of the year. My kids want it and they’re going to eat it. So I set out to find candies that were made from real food. Yes, they contain sugar but at least it’s organic, natural sugar without anything artificial (no artificial flavors or colors).
If you want to make a change to support your children’s health and you’re wondering what to replace your old favorites with, here’s my list of the Five Best Treats you can serve for Halloween (or any time of year):
- Theo Chocolates. They’re organic, sustainable, non-GMO and they’re delicious. It can be hard to find small sized bars so use the large ones as a candy-swap for the rest of the contraband your kids collect.
- UNREAL candies. They’re non-GMO, oft sustainably sourced, without hormones, and crafted carefully so as not to give a blood sugar spike and crash. They’re tasty copy-cats of many of the best-sellers like: snickers, milky way, M&Ms, and Reese’s. These come in small size packs and are great to give out to trick-or-treaters.
- Surf Sweets Gummy Candies and Jelly Beans. These candies are largely organic. They’re also gluten, soy and nut free. Look for special Halloween packs and spooky spiders as well as the regular gummies, sours, and treats.
- YumEarth Lolipops. These organic suckers have no gluten, no soy, no nuts, and no GMOs. They’re also dairy and fat-free. These vegan pops are kid-approved and are easy to buy in large quantity bags.
- Nutiva O’Coconut Snacks. These are a true candy alternative. They’re much less sweet than most candy and are made from organic coconut. They’re certified Non-GMO and fair trade.
Amy Ziff is the Founder & Chief Capidealist at Veritey. When she’s not vetting products she’s usually found playing with her 3 kids, jumping on their trampoline, or finding ways to get fruit stains out of clothes naturally! To learn more ways to incorporate healthier choices into your lifestyle signup for emails at amyziff.com.
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