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Trust me, nothing quite appeases an aggressive sweet tooth like traditional candy. The chewy stuff; the caramel-y kind with a swirl of chocolate; the kind whose nutrition facts you avoid inspecting for fear of revealing a long list of preservatives, emulsifiers and sugary syrups. We know most candies are no good for us but when the urge arises we can’t help but cave. So instead of clearing your cabinet—or car or bag—of the sweet stuff, seek out better-for-you bars and other bites that make caving less of a catastrophe.
Admittedly, none of these new, DTC candy brands are offering the same health benefits as fresh pressed juices or leafy greens, but they’re a step up from the bars you’d usually buy at checkout. (It’s evil how they leave them there, just begging to be grabbed on your way out.) These options don’t have that sort of chalkiness protein snacks do; the (sometimes) off putting undertone of alternative sweeteners; or processed sweeteners, flavorings or preservatives.
This list comprises selections from two new brands offering improved, equally irresistible sweets, Gigantic and Unreal. The former makes bars exclusively, while the latter manufactures a collection of bars, cups, and beyond. Bon Appétit called one of them the purveyors of “after school treat vibes without all the junk.” John Legend, Jack Dorsey and Gisele Bundchen praised the other for making candies they can’t live without. Hungry yet?
Taking A Bite Out Of The Bars
Know the tiny candy bars you get from the so-so houses on Halloween? They’re bite-sized but still pack hell of a serving on their own of carbs, sugar, and saturated fats. Unreal’s Dark Chocolate Caramel Peanut Nougat Bars—aka everything in a standard Snickers, packaged as individual bars in a bigger bag—are about the same size, but far healthier than your run-of-the-mill milk chocolate bar because of Unreal’s choice of ingredients: products that are all-natural and non-GMO, fair trade and free from sugar alcohol and soy, leaving their bars with 40% less sugar than the leading brand.
(The made-in-Canada company also sells a chocolate-coated coconut bar, but unless you love a Bounty or Almond Joy —they’re certainly not my favorite—stick to the other offerings.)
Gigantic’s bars, despite the name, aren’t necessarily big. They aren’t hefty or by any means heavy, but rather a denser, more compact treat, packaged in a row of eight inside a cute, branded box. They’re far more rectangular and flat, if that paints the picture. Self-proclaimed as “sortasweet,” each one—there’s Salted Peanut, Hazelnut Cafe, Banana Pecan, and Almond Horchata—checks in at or just above 200 calories, boasts no more than seven grams of sugar, and packs about 20% of your daily fiber. Overall, though, they’re delicious. The chocolate is an upgrade from commercial candy; the inside is sweet but not too sticky; the assortment of flavors is original yet approachable.
Overall, though, they’re delicious. The chocolate is an upgrade from commercial candy; the inside is sweet but not too sticky; the assortment of flavors is original yet approachable.
But while you’re perusing the packaging, don’t fret over the total fat. Gigantic favors all-natural ingredients and healthier fats from their fair trade chocolate, coconut milk and almond butter. Plus, they employ natural sweeteners like cane sugar and a plant-based caramel that skips the milk—yes, these are vegan and gluten free!
A New Candy That Rivals Reese’s
Unreal also makes an assortment of chocolate treats—not just chocolate coated bars. Their version of M&M’s, called Milk Chocolate Gems, prove texturally different—M&M’s are slicker, more glossy—and a bit bigger overall. Size wise, they’re somewhere between an M&M and a Junior Mint.
Aiming to compete with Peanut M&M’s, which are no more than nuts in a chocolate shell, Unreal offers their own Dark Chocolate Covered Peanuts. To my surprise, the former proved far better than the latter, thus converting me from the classic. The peanuts are roasted and salty, the chocolate richer and more recognizable and the experience, I dare say, elevated. (The shells even come in this cool, almost tie-dye coat.)
I felt similarly while tasting the brand’s Reese’s equivalents. Available in two versions, Dark Chocolate and Almond Butter and Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter, their cups are crispier, courtesy of a more defined chocolate shell. The inside is also softer—more creamy than it is crumbly. There’s no dryness; no mushy, oatmeal-y texture. Again, if I had the option, I’d take these over the original.
Their cups are crispier, courtesy of a more defined chocolate shell. The inside is also softer—more creamy than it is crumbly. There’s no dryness; no mushy, oatmeal-y texture. Again, if I had the option, I’d take these over the original.
The better-for-you brand strives to separate their iterations from others by emphasizing, and thus improving, the overall taste and texture profiles of classic candies we all cherish. But they also do so by using rBST-free milk, fair trade chocolate and vegetable-based food dye, which produces vibrant purple, green and blue hues from turmeric, beet juice and red radish juice. (While Hershey’s also committed to sourcing milk from cows free from rBST, their bars still have soy lecithin, PGPR, emulsifier, and artificial flavoring in them.)
Psst… TLDR? Treat Yourself.
These aren’t the antioxidant rich kinds of raw chocolate you track down in a specialty store in Soho. These are, however, healthier alternatives to the kinds of candy we typically eat—and that’s cause for celebration (eating this candy). Treat yourself by picking up both today. You’ll thank me later.