Do any truly natural, low sugar chewy candies exist?
December 5, 2014 12:18 PM   Subscribe

I think it would be AWESOME to have some chewy, honey or other naturally sweetened candy, which are not all that sweet, just to help us with oral fixations. I personally don't smoke but am needing to begin a very long progress of eating in moderation, and I tend to eat sweets when I'm bored.

When I get a sweet tooth, I prefer something like gummy bears or caramels. I've never liked the sugar-free versions, and the older I get the more aware I am of what sugar products and sweeteners are bad for you, and which are ok in moderation. I would like to figure out if there are currently any really great, completely natural (non-gmo), low sugar candies available. I can't find them online. When I search for sugar-free or low-sugar candies, they all bring up xylitol sweetened or hard candies.

My idea today was to have a candy that has a chewy component, with flavors like honey / lavendar, ginger, tea, mint, etc., just a tad sweet but not very much, that you can chew for a while (NOT gum), and are not hard candies or mints. Very specific fantasy, I know. Anyone have experience with these? If they don't exist, thoughts from any great home bakers out there who could help me brainstorm components for a recipe?

Thanks for your thoughts!
posted by zettoo to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
It's not candy, but what about dried fruits?

If fruit just cut up and dried doesn't work for you, I would think less about baking your own and more about drying your own. Pureeing fruit and sticking a thin layer in a dehydrator gives your fruit roll-ups, which are pretty damn stretchy and chewy. I would think if either put in a thicker layer or took the thin layer and folded it up when it was partially dry you could get something like a gummy. And of course you could add flavour extracts if you want something other than a pure fruit flavour.

Also, would candied ginger have the desired texture?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:23 PM on December 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't know if these are low enough in sugar, but these ginger candies are very intense, do require concentrated chewing, and are delicious.
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:29 PM on December 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

The Ginger People's Gin-Gin Ginger Chews are fat free and 20 cal for a fairly large extremely flavorful chewy candy. They're sold at Trader Joe's and I like them quite a bit. However, they do contain sugar. I'm not sure how to gauge whether they're low sugar enough for you. I did some quick math estimations and it seems like for the same 12 grams of candy, Gin Gins have 20 cal and Haribo Gold Bears have around 46.

Chimes Ginger Chews seem to be about in the same calorie range as the Haribo Bears, but there's more flavors and there come in smaller pieces than Gin-Gins, which may help in moderation.
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:37 PM on December 5, 2014

Was also going to suggest ginger candies. Depending on the ones you get, some are very soft, more like Swedish Fish (like Chimes) and some are a bit harder and take much more chewing. Both kinds tend to be pretty strong, which is good since it gives you a hard hit of flavor to satisfy a craving.
posted by holborne at 12:37 PM on December 5, 2014

The problem is, the chewyness in chewy candy is basically made of sugar. So it's hard to separate the two. I love those ginger chews but they're very sugary.

In my search for a gum that is both sugar-free and unsweetened, I came across Falim, a Turkish gum which seems to be totally non-sweetened. It seems to have a ton of fans. "There is a hint of flavor that is reminiscent of incense and ginger."
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:38 PM on December 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Came here to link the same ginger candies as jetlagaddict. I find that they satisfy my need to chew on something sweet, but they don't give me the feeling of "must have another one" the moment I'm done with one.

And on preview, looks like several others like ginger chews as well!
posted by msbubbaclees at 12:39 PM on December 5, 2014

There appears to be a Indian candy bar called "Honey Chew" that has no added sugar. No idea where to buy them or what the nutritional breakdown looks like.
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:43 PM on December 5, 2014

Pine Bros softish throat drops get their chewiness from gum acacia, not sugar. They have corn syrup in them though.
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:49 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the speedy replies! You're amazing.

I wanted to add that I recently had a fasting blood sugar level test as a standard checkup, and that morning my level was a tiny bit high, I think at 101 or something, which qualified me as potentially 'prediabetic'.

I know that eating different candies won't make much difference, but I was thinking of my triggers and habits and was hoping to learn more about how to trick myself into feeling I'm eating something sweet without the spike.

I assume healthier natural sweeteners like agave or honey may not help with the spike either. And YES, I LOVE the ginger chews! So good. But my tendency would be to eat half a bag in one sitting. So if I continue that tendency (hope to curtail it slowly), I will need something lower in sugar.

I'm not a fan of aspartame but I'll admit I don't know much about Stevia or Xylitol. I just know I've never enjoyed a sugar-free candy.
posted by zettoo at 12:50 PM on December 5, 2014

I also love chewy candy. Dried fruit is ok, dried papaya works best (best consistency).

Black licorice and ginger gummy bears work...I like them, but not enough to eat any amount, you know?
posted by jrobin276 at 12:54 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Zettoo, have you talked to your doctor about this yet? IANAD but my understanding is that for diabetes purposes, sugar is sugar, whether it comes from the white stuff, honey, agave or even if it's just built into the fruit you're eating. If you've been told to cut back on sugar, I'm afraid that probably includes honey and agave and that you should at least monitor your fruit intake.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:56 PM on December 5, 2014 [12 favorites]

Have you tried chewing on licorice root? Don't do this if you have high blood pressure, and it might be an acquired taste, but it's natural and low in calories.
posted by Ms. Next at 1:05 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

If only I had a penguin... is correct. If your concern is lowering your blood sugar, many of the answers so far may not be helpful. You should be paying attention to carbohydrates of all kinds, and much less to whether a sweetener is "natural" or not. Also, eating in moderation can become a complicated game when the goal is to break a sugar spike cycle.

If you're able to get a referral to a nutritionist and/or an endocrinologist from your doctor based on your test results, I can't recommend that enough.

To answer your question: If you're looking for chewy portable snacks that are reasonably filling, have natural ingredients and are low in carbohydrates compared to other snacks of the same kind, you might want to try KIND bars. Also, try different kinds of sugarless gum. Not all of them have the same 'taste,' even if the sweetener is the same.
posted by gnomeloaf at 1:19 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Trader Joe's salmon jerky. It's a weird flavor combination that doesn't appeal to many people, as you can see from the mixed reviews. But I like it. It's like a nice glazed salmon, turned into bits of jerky. The protein of the fish may help balance out the sugar.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 1:29 PM on December 5, 2014

Xylichew is gum sweetened with the natural, non-caloric sweetener xylitol. It is my favorite of the non-sugar sweeteners as there is almost no weird taste. You can find it at health food stores or Amazon. Might not be a caramel, but it is sweet, chewy, and won't impact your blood sugar.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:33 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love Dietorelles. They are difficult to get in the US, but I always pick up a ton when I'm in Europe. They are the perfect candy. If you know someone who is going to Europe, have them pick up a pack of the "gummose" variety.
posted by parakeetdog at 1:38 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mochi can be made with nothing but water, glutinous rice flour, and a microwave. You can add any flavoring you want. They keep for a day or so in the fridge or longer in the freezer.
posted by gray17 at 1:55 PM on December 5, 2014

My diabetic friend could use xylitol because it does not spike blood sugar. I believe it is made from corn. The only downside is gastrointestinal if you have too much (like 1/2 cup to 1cup, so don't use it in puddings or cakes) and it is also poisonous to dogs. Xlyichew might not be a bad option although a little pricy.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:55 PM on December 5, 2014

Isomalt behaves basically like sugar in a cooking sense, with half the calories.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:47 PM on December 5, 2014

Pine Bros softish throat drops get their chewiness from gum acacia, not sugar

You can get straight up Chios Mastiha (Gum Mastic) which is not sweet, but a clean piney taste.
posted by Jahaza at 2:59 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Isomalt behaves basically like sugar in a cooking sense, with half the calories.

It's also half sugar alcohol though, so it can cause serious gastric distress in quantity.
posted by KathrynT at 3:08 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Agar agar can be used to make gummy stuff, and it doesn't have to be sweet. An example recipe here.
posted by metasarah at 5:17 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wonder if cinnamon toothpicks might address the urge you're trying to curb. (I have no experience with that particular supplier, but I remember gnawing on cinnamon toothpicks as a kid and loving them.)
posted by Lexica at 7:05 PM on December 5, 2014

Matt's Munchies. On mobile so too lazy to link, but Amazon sells them.
posted by kestrel251 at 7:58 PM on December 5, 2014

Are dates as a sweetener OK? These dead-easy four-ingredient Tahini-Date Salted Caramels scratch the chewy candy itch for me when eaten right out of the freezer. The recipe lends itself to variation. I've messed with the proportions to change the texture and sweetness, and added different spices, cocoa, etc. with some success.
posted by doift at 11:23 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dates have a ton of sugar -- I wouldn't recommend them for anyone trying to cut their sugar intake. The problem is that if you want something sweet, your choices are either things which raise your blood sugar, or artificial sweeteners. Even the non-sweetened mochi mentioned above are made with rice flour, which is a simple starch that will wreak havoc on your blood sugar. From a sugars perspective, honey and high fructose corn syrup are nearly identical, and so are maple syrup and plain old table sugar. Agave is "better for your blood sugar" in that it's mostly fructose, which has to be processed into glucose by the liver and therefore causes less of a blood sugar spike, but there's increasing evidence that the liver load is metabolically bad for people long-term, and too much dietary fructose can cause IBS-like symptoms as well.

The only "natural" non-glycemic sweetener that I'm aware of is stevia leaf. You could experiment with gelatin or agar-agar bases (you can't make a caramel base without sugar), sweetened with stevia extract, and flavored however you like. I think that's the closest you're going to get.
posted by KathrynT at 11:57 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you tried chewing liquorice root? It has a woody texture so you have to work at it and the flavour is sweet but not too sweet so it might be what you're looking for. It does look a bit odd chewing on a stick though.
posted by *becca* at 2:57 AM on December 6, 2014

I've got a fair bit of experience with no and low sugar diets and the best answer to an oral fixation/habit is sugar-free gum. I know that's not what you want but pretty much every other choice is going to either be super synthetic or have too much sugar in it.

Jerky isn't sweet (well, it sorta becomes sweet once your palate recovers from all that sugar) but will keep you chewing for a while.
posted by annekate at 11:08 PM on December 6, 2014

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