My kids came home after an outing with two half-pound gummy bears, made half-way around the world, and with the first ingredient something I had never heard of: maltose syrup. I think the total sugars in the entire bear was something like 120g. It was a great opportunity to talk (to myself!) about making better food choices for my kids.
It also got me thinking about the benefits of making our own sweets on the farm. It seems to me that because my kids know a lollipop can be made with 2 ingredients (maple syrup and cane sugar), or a gummy bear can be made with 4 ingredients (more on this later), they should be more likely to question the 15-ingredient ones at the store. This is what I call food empowerment! (or me justifying my insane quest to make every food item myself). But first, a quick tour of the candy scene and ideas on how to survive it.
Enter.... Halloween! (or Easter or Christmas or fill-in-the-holiday!)
Sour patch kids, ring pops, jumbo candy bars, and my new top “worst” candy: sugar dip sticks dipped in more sugar (or is it dextrose?). This is every mother (and father)’s challenge this time of year. Is it okay that my kids eat this stuff?
A quick scan of popular candy ingredients isn’t for the faint of heart: sucrose and modified starches, gums and esters, fructose, glucose, corn syrups, acids, artificial colors, most of which were developed between the 1940s and 1960s. While none of these have probably been scientifically proven to harm the human body yet, excesses of these in the diet do raise some serious health questions. The production of some of these ingredients involve chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide, hydrochloric acid, and bone char. It's just not my cup-of-tea.
7 Tips to Survive Franken-Candy
The rise of franken-candy doesn’t have to be so scary. Here are my techniques for reducing my two boys intake of sugar, artificial colors, and preservatives on Halloween -- and year-round:
- Don’t make it a battle or be too strict. Kids will start hiding the candy from you (they will, I learned from experience).
- Incorporate some of the candy they get into future baking projects, like gingerbread houses, muffins, or cookies. It spreads the sugar out over a longer period of time.
- As they're munching (this is when they are quiet enough), read the ingredients to them and ask them if they know what they are. Resist a lecture here, just the simple "what's that?" Don't expect them to answer until the year 2042.
- Have a laugh at pronouncing the ingredients -- "sorbitan tristearate" and "monoglycerides" -- to start their process of questioning.
- Take the emphasis off of candy for other trick-or-treaters by offering them small toys, or craft/art supplies like stickers, pencils, or crayons.
- Encourage any candy-eating to be done after meals (rather than by itself between meals) to reduce tooth decay. Make them wait!
- Try making your own candy at home -- you can be sure there won’t be artificial colors, preservatives, or high fructose corn syrup with a few, easy recipes.
Benefit by Making Candy in Your Kitchen
Making candy is not difficult, and only requires a few tools (a candy thermometer and some molds are a good place to start for hard candies). Start small and keep experimenting until it's right. You'll always get honest feedback from your kids! And over time, you can involve them in the process too.
Over the years I've become so obsessed with wanting my kids to eat clean that I perfected candy recipes to make for them. Last year I began selling a complete do-it-yourself gummy kit that offers the perfect combination of sweet/nutrition. I based it on the elderberries and maple syrup that are a staple of our farm.
I went the extra mile to develop a kit that i hope makes it easier for moms, dads and grandparents to survive the rise of Franken-candy. Consider using my recipe or buying the kit. Either way, the only remedy i see is to take control of the ingredients and join the journey to food empowerment.
Our Elderberry Gummy Kit provides the ingredients, the directions, and the silicone tray to make gummy treats-- and the same tray can be used for chocolate and hard candies, too. We've included recipes for both in the kit!
This kit represents the end of my years-long quest for the perfect gummy: 4 ingredients, all pre-measured, designed to taste great, and no refined sugar. The gelatin is kosher, and adds protein and a great, smooth texture. Maple syrup for sweetening -- add more or less according to your sweet-tooth, and the elderberries add antioxidants, anthocyanins, and other dark-berry benefits. Good luck and happy holiday-ing!