Between the pumpkin-shaped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and the ever-controversial candy corn, Halloween season and candy go hand in hand. But while some people may be eager to jump into a big bag of Skittles to celebrate the holiday, others may be eyeing the supposedly healthier options popping up on supermarket shelves.
The popular brand SmartSweets, which mimics candies like Caramels, Twizzlers, SourPatch Kids and Swedish Fish, contains 92% less sugar than traditional candies – but are SmartSweets and the other alternative candies like them really too good to be true? Here’s what you should know.
An overview of SmartSweets
SmartSweets, which are available in colorful packaging, contain between 1 gram and 4 grams of sugar per pack – and that’s what it says right on the bag. The candies are also characterized by “no artificial sweeteners, added sugar or sugar alcohols”. Instead, SmartSweets use allulose, a natural sweetener found in foods like raisins, figs, jackfruit, and maple syrup.
According to nutritionist Marlyne Perez, allulose “can cause gas, bloating, and nausea when consumed in large quantities” — but that’s not the only ingredient to watch out for when consuming SmartSweets.
Unlike most sweets that contain little to no added fiber, SmartSweets contains tons of fiber. Although fiber is an important macronutrient, consuming too much fiber at the same time can put a strain on your digestive system. For example, a 100-calorie serving of the brand’s Sourmelon Bites contains 46% of the daily recommended fiber, which Perez says comes from “inulin, a naturally occurring fiber found in chicory roots.”
“Manufacturers like to use inulin because it can be mixed with other ingredients without affecting the taste. However, because it tends to be added to foods in abundance, it can cause gas, bloating, and stomach pain after consuming just a single serving,” she explains. “People who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or follow a low-FODMAP diet should try to avoid inulin.”
What you should consider when it comes to candy alternatives
There are health concerns—such as the need to manage one’s blood sugar levels—that can lead people to seek lower-sugar alternatives to sweets. But those who don’t have such concerns might reconsider grabbing a bag of alternative candy this Halloween.
“Sweets with less sugar may make us feel like we have permission to eat more of them,” says a nutritionist Brenna O’Malley. She notes that some people may feel the same way about SmartSweets as others feel about Lite ice cream, eating entire pints of “healthier” ice cream alternatives, as opposed to one or two servings of regular ice cream.
“It feeds this narrative that sweets are something you should limit — but don’t.” The Sweets. This is good marketing on their part. But when you zoom out, you might wonder, ‘Why do people eat candy anyway?'” she points out. “It’s not for its health benefits, just like you don’t eat birthday cake for its health benefits. You eat these things because they taste good, because you feel like it, because it’s Halloween or because it’s associated with nostalgia. It’s a good thing that’s okay.”
O’Malley says that “the root of food cravings or feelings of loss of control over food often lies in restriction.”
“That can be a physical limitation from not giving yourself enough to eat, but it can also be a mental limitation that can sometimes occur when someone only chooses the diet versions or the health-conscious versions of things and doesn’t allow themselves to be looked for.” they actually crave,” she says.
Kathleen Moore, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, says holidays like Halloween and the sweet treats that come with them can sometimes cause challenges in our relationship with food.
“If you already have a sweet craving, it’s probably healthier to eat the original sweet you’re craving and look at your relationship with it,” says Moore, adding that it’s best to try this If you feel like sugar is making you feel out of control, instead of trying to quell it with a healthier alternative.
It is also important to know that all sweets, whether “smart” or not, have no nutritional value and should not be substituted for foods that do.
“Make sure you don’t skip a meal and say, ‘Oh, because I’m eating these sweets, I shouldn’t eat breakfast or lunch,'” says Moore. “When we eat, we should provide ourselves with foods that nourish us and protect us from disease. Once we do that, if you want something specifically for fun and enjoyment, why not?”