Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, which in many households (including my own growing up) there will be plenty of jelly beans and chocolate bunnies (amongst other things). Easter is probably second to Halloween when it comes to candy, but maybe first (will have to check this data!) when it comes to eating jelly beans, which are often loaded with artificial colors, ingredients and more – including my top 3 worst Easter candy ingredients.
So what do you do? Pass out of the jelly bean hunt? No way.
Check out my 3 worst Easter candy ingredient list below along with swaps, then keep reading this article for more ideas!
3 worst Easter candy ingredients
1. High fructose corn syrup: It’s found in commercially processed candies and found in places like the bread you eat. Besides being a very processed and concentrated source of sugar, HFCS often contains mercury, which usually goes unregulated and unchecked by the FDA. Mercury in excess can cause detrimental effects to the nervous system, and for children may be deleterious to brain and nervous system growth and regular development. In short, try to steer clear of it.
- Cane sugar/tapioca syrup, concentrated fruit juice or maple syrup: Although still sugar, these are less processed and certainly less genetically modified (GMO) for the most part than either corn syrup or HFCS. Additionally, try to seek out candies that do not have sugar as the main ingredient- remember that the first ingredient on the label means that there is the most of that ingredient in the product.
2. Artificial Colors: How do you think your jelly beans get to be such pretty colors? Some companies out there have started to use more natural ingredients to color- but I have to say, not many out there do. Here’s a few to watch out for and why.
- Yellow #5: One of the most frequently used artificial food dyes, will likely be found in more than one spot in your Easter candy pile- like in Peeps and jelly beans, as well as Easter-themed M & M’s. including candy corn, gummy worms and other gummy candies, M&M’s, found in candy corn,
- Caramel color: This chemical can be found in both sodas and candies that are brown. Caramel color may contain a potential carcinogen 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI), which has been found in lab studies (remember that these are not tests in humans so they still need to be further tested) to cause cancer in mice. Additionally, in certain states, legislation is being written to mandate a health warning on labels of foods containing a certain level of caramel color. This is definitely an ingredient to avoid when possible.
- Natural colorings and dyes: look for candies that use all natural dyes- “organic black carrot juice concentrate”, “organic turmeric”, “organic annatto”– all are healthier swaps over those that are artificially processed and chemically-created.
3. Hydrogenated Oils: Yes, they’re still found in many of the processed foods you might be eating- especially on Easter- like baked goods (think Easter breakfast items like muffins and coffee cake), and candy.
- Partially and fully hydrogenated oils: You might be shocked, but this basically translates to trans fats; didn’t you think that trans fats had to be labeled? Think again, they may not always be labeled. Partially hydrogenated oils appear in more foods than you might realize, including processed nut butters and certainly lots of candies. During the hydrogenation process, the chemical makeup of the substance is changed, which makes it much more difficult, or even impossible for your body to break down and get rid of. This is another ingredient to steer far away from. Note that on the candy label you might find partially hydrogenated vegetable, soybean, palm or other oils- they all mean the same thing.
- Companies that more consciously source and make their candies will use non-hydrogenated oils like coconut, cocoa butter, peanut oil, sunflower oil or lastly palm oil. Although in excess palm oil isn’t as healthful due to higher saturated fat content, try to seek it out over any type of hydrogenated oils.
Ok, so you’ve heard about all the bad stuff that can be appearing in yours or your child’s Easter candy basket- so where can you find healthier stuff instead? Check out these candy companies that use (more) natural ingredients:
- Surf Sweets makes their candy gluten-free, corn-syrup free, artificial-coloring free, GMO-free, organic, soy free, vegetarian and more. Check out their jelly beans and gummy candies- they’re super tasty!
- Trujoy Sweets makes their candy with organic ingredients (USDA approved), free of corn syrup, without any artificial colors or flavors, vegan, gluten free and kosher.
- Joma Organics makes their chocolates made from organic ingredients (including soy lecithin), uses fruit juices to color their candies, is free of corn syrups and is gluten free.
- Sjaaks Organic Chocolates makes their chocolate from vegan and non-GMO sources as well as uses organic ingredients to make their products. Sjaak’s also certifies fair trade.
Here’s a few non-candy items you can put in your easter eggs too:
- Money (this one is always a hit)
- Beauty items (nail polish, lipstick, eye shadows)
- Socks or shoe laces
- Hair elastics
- Temporary tattoos
Have a safe and happy Easter!