Sweet Treats That Aren't Terrible For You? Yaaas!

by Mikaela Gilbert-Lurie

Sometimes, life is such that you just kind of need a steady supply of junk food. Unfortunately, though, I've also been raised with pretty serious chemophobia — which means that even though I like to partake in an M&M or two (or a whole bagful) every now and again, I feel guilty about all the red dye #3 and partially hydrogenated whatever I'm consuming (hey, I don't study chemistry, OK?). But thankfully, there are a few companies that understand my simultaneous need for candy and fear of the chemicals therein, so they've started to produce candy without as much scary stuff in them: Meet Unreal Candy, which makes treats that aren't quite as bad for you as a lot of other standard junk food picks.

Unreal Candy's goal in life is to "unjunk the world by reinventing America's favorite foods." Unreal uses only natural, fair trade ingredients to produce their own versions of M&Ms and Reese's Peanut Butter cups. Their candies contain no soy, gluten or corn, and instead are filled with puffed quinoa and beet-root juice as a substitute for artificial food coloring. Started by two brothers in Boston, the company produces all of its candy in North America, using only ethically sourced cocoa and GMO free ingredients. It might still be loaded with sugar — it is candy, after all — but it's pure cane sugar, so there's no need to feel guilty about eating 40 of their peanut butter cups during a single episode of Gilmore Girls. Or, you know, as guilty. OK, so you still probably shouldn't eat 40 peanut butter cups in one sitting — but you get what I mean.

The best part? Unreal Candy isn't the only company out there trying to make our snacking habits a little healthier. Check out these other junk food options that give you some slightly less terrible for you indulgences:

1. Yummy Earth Candy

If you like lollipops but hate GMOs, this hippie dad-founded company has you covered. Yummy Earth Candy is peanut, tree-nut, gluten, and artificial dye free.

2. Panda Licorice

Some (insane) people out there actually like licorice. I guess it doesn't taste like the devil's spawn to everyone. If you're a licorice loving chemophobe, you can try Panda Licorice. It's all natural, so the only thing you have to worry about is that your taste buds are clearly incorrectly designed. (I jest. But seriously: Can someone explain licorice to me? Because I just don't get it.)

3. Newman O's

OK, it's not candy, but it is a healthier version of junk food. Newman O's are the Newman's Own Organic answer to Oreos. They're actually really good, and they come in different flavors like original, chocolate, mint, and ginger. Unfortunately, you probably won't find crazy flavors like Watermelon or Birthday Cake, but that's because Newman keeps it all organic and artificial ingredient-free.

4. Justin's Peanut Butter Cups

You've probably seen these babies at Starbucks, and if you're like me, you've probably impulse bought like seven of them. Justin's Peanut Butter Cups are a bit richer than their Reese's counterparts, but they're all natural and the chocolate doesn't have that waxy taste that traditional peanut butter cups have does.

5. Surf Sweets Jelly Beans

Personally, I'm a Jelly Belly fiend. I love trying to guess the flavor from the taste, and there's nothing better than biting into a green jelly bean and finding a pink center and realizing that yes, you have, in fact just found the elusive watermelon flavor. But if you'd rather enjoy your jelly beans with less chemicals, you can try Surf Sweets. They're made with organic fruit juice and no artificial flavors or colors.

Images: Unreal Candy/Instagram; Yummy Earth Candy, Panda Licorice, Newman's Own Organics, Justin's, Surf Sweets Organic Gummy Candy/Facebook;