Halloween candy taste test: We try Food Babe’s picks

yumearth candy
YumEarth Organics candies have no artificial food dyes or high fructose corn syrup.
Credit: YumEarth Organics

Kids love Halloween sweets, but name brand Halloween candies often contain a host of scary ingredients, according to food activist and blogger Vani Hari of FoodBabe.com.

Hari warned Metro readers earlier to watch out for five scary ingredients: partially hydrogenated oils, artificial food coloring, high fructose corn syrup, vanillin and natural flavors. Here’s a hint: That “natural flavor” may be castoereum, which is derived from the castor and anal glands of beavers.

Though these ingredients can be literally heart stopping, that doesn’t mean that trick-or-treaters and their grown-ups can’t meet a happy middle ground. Plenty of natural candy brands offer alternatives to well-known candies like gummy bears or Reese’s cups. Hari recommends natural brands Unreal Candy, Justin’s, Endangered Species and YumEarth. We put these sweets to the test and added a couple of our own to see how they stack up against the big names.

These candies look like M&Ms, but they're colored with beet juice and turmeric instead of artificial dyes.  Credit: Unreal Candy
These candies look like M&Ms, but they’re colored with beet juice and turmeric instead of artificial dyes.
Credit: Unreal Candy

Unreal Candy: Unreal makes their candy bars with less sugar, grass-fed dairy and all-natural origin colors: Unreal uses beet and turmeric juice to color their candy. We tried Unreal’s “The Double One,” the brand’s peanut butter cups, and found them to be less salty and less sugary than Reese’s, but still very tasty and satisfying. We also liked “The Loaded One,” the brand’s take on Snickers, but we were divided on “The Gimme Ones,” Unreal’s answer to M&Ms. Some of us liked the more intense chocolate flavor, but some thought there was a strange aftertaste.

Justins peanut butter
No trans fats here. Justin’s doesn’t add any partially hydrogenated oils to its peanut butter cups.
Credit: Justin’s

Justin’s: Justin’s is famous for its nut butters, but the organic and fair trade brand also makes candy. Most of us preferred Unreal’s peanut butter cups to Justin’s, but we found that Justin’s had a stronger peanut butter flavor, whereas Unreal’s chocolate was more of a highlight. We also preferred Unreal’s “The Loaded One” to Justin’s milk chocolate peanut candy bar; several Metro staffers said Justin’s version tasted like a protein bar and was too chewy.

endangered species
Kids will love the cute packaging on these milk and dark chocolate squares from Endangered Species.
Credit: Endangered Species

Endangered Species: These natural, Non-GMO Project Verified milk and dark chocolate squares were sweet and simple, but all of our staffers enjoyed the ethically traded sweets, and kids will love the festive wrappers.

YumEarth gummy bears
Our taste-testers went crazy for these fruity, chewy, all-natural gummy bears.
Credit: YumEarth Organics

YumEarth Organics: These were a staff favorite. YumEarth’s organic gummy bears and worms were a huge hit. We loved the powerful punch of the real pomegranate, strawberry, mango and peach flavors and the chewy texture. We also enjoyed the super tart and chewy Naturals Sour Beans.

Fruit chews from Lovely Candy Co. have real freeze dried fruit in them.  Credit: Lovely Candy Co.
Fruit chews from Lovely Candy Co. have real freeze dried fruit in them.
Credit: Lovely Candy Co.

Lovely Candy Co. Fruit Chews: These fruit-flavored soft chews are made with brown rice syrup and real fruit, but they also contain natural flavors – a Food Babe no-no. Nonetheless, Food Babe said they are much healthier than Starbursts: “You’ll automatically save yourself from GMOs and a bunch of petroleum-based food dyes.” We’re glad, because these were juicy and addictive, though softer than Starbursts.

alter eco chocolate
Alter Eco truffles are made with coconut oil. Hari, also known as Food Babe, says coconut oil is a metabolism booster.
Credit: Alter Eco

Alter Eco Truffles: These truffles come in Black and Velvet, and both are sustainable chocolates made with pure coconut oil instead of partially hydrogenated soybean oil. An added bonus? Hari said coconut oil is a “metabolism-boosting fat burner.” The chocolates are similar to Lindt truffles and the ganache centers are incredibly velvety and rich: One will tide you over for a while.

Learn more about Vani Hari’s work on her website, FoodBabe.com and follow her on Twitter: @TheFoodBabe.

Follow Andrea Park on Twitter: @andreapark

- See more at: http://www.metro.us/boston/lifestyle/2013/10/07/scary-halloween-candy/#sthash.rtkZ8AtR.dpuf



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