For parents raising kids with food allergies and sensitivities or on special diets, holidays can be a burden because your child is exposed to so much junk candy: at school, at events, at respite care, even at holiday faith services. A parent has to be extremely vigilant, engaged and even get on board (or into the activity) to make sure your child doesn’t indulge.
The Dangers of Toxic Treats & Artificial Colors
But even if your child does not have allergies or sensitivities, you may want to consider allergen free easter candy for one reason: some of the top mainstream candy brands contain the worst toxins. For example, at this time of year, candy is notorious for being artificially colored. Studies have linked those colors to ADHD and hyperactivity – and parents are learning this the hard way: by watching extreme behaviors mysteriously appear.
Not only that, but artificial dyes Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6 contain a known cancer-causing agent called benzidine. The FDA has approved this chemical for use only at low levels, but as anyone knows, a kid can consume candy until they are sick. Artificial dyes are so suspect in a number of diseases that we have banned them from our house for good.
At first, this meant no more candy for the kids. I’m not a big advocate of candy but it’s a fun part of childhood in moderation. There should be no reason not to occasionally indulge them – like on a holiday – but I still want to avoid artificial colors. What can a parent do?
Parent Observations of Candy
I recently interviewed Andrea Donsky, founder of Naturally Savvy, about this issue. She is a clean food advocate and author of “Unjunk Your Junk Food: Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks,” as well as a mom. Early on, Andrea had the inclination that colored and artificial foods were “wrong” somehow. So she did her own research as she studied to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist – including observing her own children.
Andrea noticed her son and daughter exhibited disruptive behavior around candy. “It comes down to how they act after they’ve eaten it.” She shared the story of how her husband bought candy from their local 7/11 one day and within 10 minutes he noticed the kids had “the crazies.”
She’s not alone in this observation. Take away a food from your child for a few weeks and then reintroduce it in one sitting and you may be surprised to see how they act. Or, just remove artificial dyes altogether. If your child is affected, I bet his teacher will contact about how much better he is doing within a few weeks. Artificial dyes and preservatives were a stumbling block in my daughter’s ability to socialize. I encourage you to remove these dyes from your child’s diet and see if it makes a difference.
Since Andrea lives in Canada, she has an even more difficult time sussing out chemicals in food. The only legal requirement there is to name “color” as an ingredient – no “artificial” listing required. What can you do when you don’t know the ingredients?
Giving Up Candy?
Of course, our kids still want candy – and to that end, we are lucky. Manufacturers are starting to take notice and take out the dyes. That’s great but know what’s even better? A candy company that has taken steps right from the start to help parents give their kids safe options.
I was lucky enough to receive candy to review from a company like that: Surf Sweets and its sister company, TruJoy Sweets. I talked with marketing director Lisa Dempsey about their origins and mission. Lisa shared her belief that “the food we eat is so important,” and that philosophy is true for founder Bert Cohen. Raised by a mom with numerous food intolerances, he grew up eating real food and has been a “natural food devotee” all his life. He was co-founder of Enjoy Life Foods but amicably parted ways later. As he awaited the birth of his first child and looked for his next investment, he discovered a tiny West Coast brand – Surf Sweets – originated by surfer dudes so that’s where the name comes from!
Allergen Free Easter Candy at Last: Surf Sweets
Surf Sweets are a great allergen free easter candy candy option. They are free of the top 10 allergens and are created in a dedicated facility. All their candy is organic, some of it is vegetarian and some is vegan. But Bert didn’t stop there. You see, he too is a parent raising a child with an allergy. He knows how critical details are when you are looking for safe and healthy food choices that will not trigger a reaction or behavior in your sensitive child. In fact, Surf Sweets candies are safe for kids on Stage 2 of the Feingold diet, which may help parents combat ADHD in their kids.
I’m going to give you first hand perspective on this. Last month, I wrote a piece for Mamavation about Valentine’s Day candy. You would not believe how difficult it is to get information on the ingredients of the most popular candies, particularly on a website – never mind an ingredient that is not broken down.
This is not an issue at all at Surf Sweets. Not only do they list ingredients, their FAQ has the most comprehensive discussion of what those ingredients mean that I’ve ever seen. For example, their products are free of corn proteins, however, they use “molds made out of corn starch” to create candy so it may contain “trace amounts of corn starch.” Also some of their flavors are diluted with corn alcohol. Although those products do not contain corn protein (often the root of the allergy), Bert felt compelled to share that information. He states, “We need to tell consumers everything and let them make the choice.” Their FAQs cover gelatin, lactic acid, citric acid, pectin, carnauba wax, confectioners glaze and natural flavors. This is the MOST detail I’ve ever seen on ingredients and how they are made or derived – no excuses or justifications like other brands do.
This is why *I* am so excited about recommending Surf Sweets to you. This is not about “what the law allows.” This is about a concerned parent wanting to be completely transparent so that other parents can make their own decisions. Trust me, that is both rare and refreshing.
Oh my gosh, my kids love to eat this allergen free Easter candy all year long! They don’t even miss those artificially dyed little fruit pellet brands they use to scarf down when these are around. Lisa assured me they do as much R&D and testing as they can to make sure they have the BEST options. Andrea also told me she these were one of the first companies she came across when seeking clean options for her kids. “Their products taste good. Many kids even think they taste better.” Our family agrees!
If you are hunting for allergy friendly candy to fill that holiday basket or bucket, check out Surf Sweets. First, visit their website or Facebook page to learn more. Then check your local market. I know you can find them at Whole Foods and Wegman’s. (More bulk items are coming to Wegman’s in the fall!)
One More Thing…
Want to feel even better about this brand? Surf Sweets is a company that participates in 1% For The Planet, which takes 1% of every single sale, right off the top, and donates it to environmentally worthy causes. Lisa mentioned some of the top groups they work with:
- Rozalia Project, which cleans debris off the ocean floors on the East Coast, something I truly care about
- Sustainable Surf, whose mission is to transform the surf culture into a community that protects the environment with projects like ECOBOARDS and styrofoam clean up & recycling
- My friends at Healthy Child Healthy World, which informs people how to protect their kids from harmful chemicals
What’s not to love about Surf Sweets? You should note that Surf Sweets do contain organic sugar – again, they want you to make the decision – so, as always, review their ingredients to ensure they comply with your child’s food restrictions. As for my family, we might take a breather from GAPS for this holiday and enjoy this top notch, safe candy!
More Allergen Free Easter Candy Choices
You have a whole basket to fill, right? So here are more great allergen & peanut free Enataster candy choices for your family:
If you don’t have as many allergies, there are other options too. In 2011, Whole Foods asked Surf Sweets to create organic candy canes, and they started a new brand, TruJoy, at a new facility for safety. While not as allergy friendly as the Surf Sweets brand, these candies are all organic versions of classic candies, like Choco Chews, Fruit Chews and Lollipops. They are all vegan, vegetarian, kosher and free of artificial colors & flavors and corn syrup. These are also approved for different stages of the Feingold diet. I know we will buying these candy canes – and the Choco-Chews are to die for!! Lisa got me super excited when she mentioned that they will be releasing Peppermint Choco Chews in time for Christmas 2015…my mouth literally watered! Can’t wait…