Monday, October 26, 2009

A Less Scary Halloween

It’s just once a year, so many of us allow the excesses and frankly scary ingredients in Halloween candy for just that week. While it may be once a year, it kicks off the marathon into Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and other sweets-related holidays for children. Many of the offerings out there contain fillers, chemicals and just about anything but real ingredients. Before you know it, the end of the year degrades into more junk than is fair to hoist on a youngin’.

This year I was determined to find appealing treats that came in safe packaging. After some research online I found several sites and blogs that recommended more pure candies like dark chocolates, jellybeans and hard candies made from natural flavors like fruit juices. I searched the store shelves at several drug stores and supermarkets in my area for economical and kid-appealing examples and while I found some good choices at reasonable prices, the poor choices were overwhelming. No wonder many of us give up. Items labeled dark chocolate contained other suspicious looking ingredients and often did not have cocoa, chocolate or its liquor as a first or even prominent ingredient. Fruit juices and natural flavors were harder to spot though fruity flavors abounded. I was pleased to see a natural brand of individually wrapped hard candy in hip flavors like pomegranate, honey and apple. The price was a bit steep so perhaps I’ll sample them for Christmas stockings rather then the Halloween grab-bowl.

In the end I picked three treats that should keep the local ghouls happy and their tummies a little healthier.

Starburst Sour GummiBursts
13 packets in a $2.99 9-oz package
The first ingredient is corn syrup followed by sugar so this was the chanciest pick. I know corn syrup is not high on the hit parade of sweeteners but I use corn syrup in pecan pie and for now am allowing it in some moderation. I felt a bit better about the gelatin, apple juice and citric acid ingredients and decided to live with the others that comprised “less than 2%” of the total according to the package label. This candy is made by Mars and each packet cost about 23¢.

SunMaid Raisins
6 packs on sale for $1.59
Some like raisins; some don’t. I think they taste great with dark chocolate and I know a few in the neighborhood who are also fans. Simple and pure and in a cute box too. These really compete with the Sour GummiBears at 24¢ per box.

Toblerone Tiny dark chocolate with honey and almond nougat
22 pieces in a 4.65 oz package on sale for $1.79
This turned out to be the best deal when I opened the packages and found 22 pieces inside on average. Bittersweet chocolate is the first ingredient listed and it’s subset of ingredients also lists chocolate first. I recognize all the other ingredients and like the inclusion of honey and almond nougat for children who are not yet under the spell of dark chocolate. (Allergies note: this treat has nuts and eggs.) The signature prism-shaped packaging is cool and thematically dark to suit the holiday. At about 8¢ per tiny bar, this is a fun treat at a great price. I feel as good about these as I do about the raisins and can give out 2 per trick-or-treater without breaking the bank.