Halloween is a fun day but the ingredients found in a lot of the most popular candy bars can be downright spooky. I don’t mean to be the Grinch of Halloween but I can’t not share this information with you.
When I was a kid, I used to come home from trick-or-treating and immediately dump my loot on the floor. I would separate my candy into piles to see what I got the most of. I was never much of a Skittles or Starbursts type of girl–I always have and still do prefer chocolate. My three favorites were (still are) Reese’s, Snickers, and Butterfinger. In honor of my favorites, I thought I would take a look at each one in detail. What I found was frightening.
PGPR is short for polyglycerol polyricinoleate. PGPR is made from castor beans and is used as a cheaper alternative to cocoa butter in chocolate. TBHQ is short for Teritiary Butylhydroquinone and is a chemical made from butane. It is used as a preservative in food products. TBHQ has been shown to cause ADHD in children, asthma, allergies, dermatitis, dizziness and stomach cancer in lab animals. Want to know something crazy? Europe bans the use of TBHQ in food products, yet the FDA deems it safe for us to eat. Am I the only one that feels slightly alarmed by this?! Come on Hershey company, can’t you just give us some real chocolate?
Snickers are not any better. When you see artificial flavor in the ingredients section, it means that part of the taste has been chemically produced in a lab. No thanks. Corn syrup is a highly processed form of sugar that has been derived from–you guessed it–corn. I crrriiiinnnggee when I see the ingredient partially hydrogenated oil in food. This is a trans fat and will absolutely increase your risk of heart disease. There is an FDA labeling loophole that if a product has less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving, the company can label the product as having 0 grams of trans fat. If you see the words HYDROGENATED or PARTIALLY-HYDROGENATED OIL, please STAY FAR AWAY!
Ok, Butterfinger, I hoped you would come in clutch, but no such luck. Besides the corn syrup, hydrogenated oil, and TBHQ, Butterfinger also contains natural flavors and monoglycerides. Now, I can’t say that all natural flavor is bad, but I just want you to be aware of the fact that there are loose regulations on where natural flavor comes from, meaning it could come from something like an insect–eeeww. Monoglycerides are a type of fat that is added to food to help blend ingredients that wouldn’t otherwise blend well. They can come from plants, animals, or be manufactured synthetically. I am assuming Butterfinger isn’t sourcing their monoglycerides from organic plant sources, but I could be wrong. Either way, there is enough junk in a Butterfinger to make me never want to eat it again.
I know, I know, this is sad. Please don’t throw your fun-size candy bars at me in disappointment. I am not totally going to be the Grinch of Halloween–here are some healthier alternatives you can enjoy yourself, give to your children, or pass out to trick-or-treaters:
1. Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups. Hooray for real cocoa butter and no TBHQ. Definitely one of the best alternatives to a Reese’s.
2. Unreal Candy. Candy made with real ingredients–what a novel idea. Unreal Candy uses non-GMO, sustainably sourced, fair trade, real ingredients in their candy bars. Their products have less sugar and taste better compared to conventional American candy bars.
3. Healthier Chocolate Bars. Chocolate in it’s raw form is one of the best sources of antioxidants in the world. To reap the benefits of dark chocolate, I recommend looking for a variety that has at least 70% cocoa content or more. Some of my favorite brands include: Endangered Species, Chocolove, Divine, and Theo. You can order all of these online or find them at your local health food store.
4. Other Types of Treats. Nobody said that you have to pass out sugar-coated, fake chocolate bars for Halloween. Actually, it is fun to think outside of the box and treat your trick-or-treaters with something different. Here are some unconventional ideas: That’s It Bars, Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies Snack Packs, Honest Kids Organic Juice Drinks, Annie’s Fruit Snacks, Organic Raisins, Mama Chia Squeeze Pouches, or individual bags of Skinny Pop.
5. Non-Food Items. Woah, now this is really out of the box, but hang with me here. I use to love this type of stuff as a kid! Some small items that you could pass out include stickers, bookmarks, pencils, or inexpensive costume jewelry. You can find these types of items at the dollar store, dollar bins at Target, craft stores, or from Oriental Trading Company. If you choose to go this route, you will definitely be remembered as having the house with the “cool treats”.
Knowledge is power and now you know what is actually in the candy you eat. The most important thing about the knowledge you have is that you use it. Be different, be bold, be brave, and pass out something non-traditional. Start the trend and take a small step to improve the health of your family, neighborhood, and local community.
What are your thoughts on what goes into America’s food supply?