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Can SmartSweets Replace Your Sour Patch Kids Addiction, or Are They Total Garbage?

It’s time to take out the trash.

Fast Facts

  • SmartSweets replace sugar with natural sweeteners and fiber for a more nutritious low-calorie candy.
  • SmartSweets are made with stevia leaf extract and another non-artificial sweetener called allulose.
  • SmartSweets contain 100 calories, 2 to 4g of sugar, and 13g of fiber in each single serving bag.

Chewy. Sugary. Sweet. Sour. These are just some of the many qualities that make gummy candy so irresistible. But there are also some not-so-great qualities when it comes to nutrition. Most of your drugstore favorites lack any real nutrients and pack upwards of 80g of sugar per bag (more than double the 36g recommended dietary allowance for adult men), in the form of high-fructose corn syrup and cane sugar. Throw in all the extra preservatives and brain-rewiring chemicals, and you have a recipe for addiction.

Sugar and hard drugs impact our brain chemistry and behavior in similar ways, say researchers. Added sugars stoke dopamine levels and produce drug-like reactions, including bingeing, craving, withdrawal, and feelings of reward (1). Sweets register the same way drugs do in the brain, so they wreck your self-control and can lead to addiction (2). Which is why it’s often hard to stop at one serving size of your favorite sugary snack.

But if you’re anything like me, you’re not quite ready to give up your sour gummies—yet. I almost always need something sweet after eating anything salty—better yet if the two flavors are combined. But I also care about my health and live a healthy lifestyle. How do I kick my sugar habit and keep sweets? That’s exactly what SmartSweets’ founder set out to solve.

What Are SmartSweets?

SmartSweets are exactly what they sound like: smarter, low-calorie versions of your favorite sweets. Whether you’re obsessed with gummy bears and Swedish Fish, or you’re all about sour all the time, the brand has a dupe for you. Each 1.8-ounce bag is meant to be enjoyed in its entirety, which takes the guesswork out of serving sizes, and boasts just 100 calories, 2 to 4g of sugar from natural sources, and the added benefit of 13g of fiber to keep things moving.

 

What Are SmartSweets Made Of?

SmartSweets’ whole schtick is that its candies are low-sugar and low-calorie. Each single-serving bag only contains 2 to 4g of sugar, none of which comes from added sugar or sugar alcohols. So where do they get their “sweet” taste from? It’s not chemical-laden artificial sweeteners, but rather stevia leaf extract and another non-artificial sweetener called allulose, which is found in foods like raisins and figs. According to the brand, “it tastes like sugar, but doesn’t act like sugar in our body. Since allulose isn’t absorbed by the body, you subtract it, along with fiber to find 18g of net carbs [in one bag of SmartSweets].”

As for the leftover carbs, those come from ingredients like soluble corn fiber, chicory root fiber, modified potato starch, and rice flour.

Are SmartSweets Actually Healthy?

While SmartSweets are made with more “natural” ingredients you can actually pronounce, they’re still not incredibly nutritious. The sweeteners used, although not technically artificial, aren’t sugar, and don’t act like sugar in the body. This also means SmartSweets won’t give you a sugar crash, but also likely won’t truly satiate a sugar craving. You’d be better off eating a Granny Smith apple (the lowest sugared apple of the bunch with just 9g) for a sweet treat with far more nutritional value.

The one area SmartSweets does excel in? Fiber. Each 50g bag contains 13g of fiber, which is 46 percent of your daily value. For comparison, a Granny Smith apple only has around 4 to 5g of fiber.

SmartSweets Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Wide variety of flavors available from sweet to fruity to sour
  • Single-serve bags make portion control easy
  • Low-sugar and low-calorie candy
  • High fiber content
  • Non-GMO, non-artificial, “natural” ingredients
  • No sugar crash

Cons

  • Most flavors leave little to be desired
  • Not diabetic-friendly
  • Stevia aftertaste
  • Sticky, hard-to-chew texture
  • High prices
  • High fiber content may cause stomach issues

The Overview

My first word was “chocolate” but I’ve only recently gotten into gummies. I salivate at the thought of Trolli Bright Crawlers and regularly grab a bag when I run to the grocery store. So I decided to pit my current gummy favorites against their low-sugar SmartSweets doppelgangers to see if they can measure up to my (admittedly high) expectations.

Candy vs. SmartSweets

Flavors

I teamed each of the SmartSweets flavors up with their full-sugar counterparts.

SmartSweets Flavors

OG Candy Flavors

Sour Blast Buddies

Sour Patch Kids

Sourmelon Bites

Sour Patch Watermelons

Sweet Fish

Swedish Fish

Peach Rings

Haribo Peaches

Nutrition Facts

Despite being fairly health-conscious, I can surprisingly say that I’ve never truly scrutinized the back of a box of candy as I did for this experiment. And the total sugars in each of the OG candies are shocking. Sure, I wouldn’t typically mow a whole box of Sour Patch Kids knowingly, in one sitting, but I’ve definitely taken multiple handfuls in a dark movie theatre. My poor blood sugar.

The Head-to-Head Comparison

Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty about the nutrition facts, the flavor, the price, and the rating scale, from most tolerable to least.

1. Peach Rings vs. Haribo Peaches

 

Nutrition Facts

Peach Rings

Haribo Peaches

Serving Size 

1 1.8-ounce bag

4 pieces (8 servings per 8-ounce bag)

Calories

100

100

Total Fat

0g

0g

Sodium

70mg

0mg

Total Carbohydrate

42g

24g

Dietary Fiber

13g

0g

Sugars

3g

20g

Incl Added Sugars

0g

20g

Protein

0g

2g

At first glance, the Haribo Peaches don’t look half bad compared to the SmartSweets Peach Rings. They contain less than half the carbs, a mild-ish 20g of sugar (less than a can of Coke), and 2g of protein. Then I looked at the serving size—just four measly peaches. If I ate the whole bag, those numbers would skyrocket, eight-fold. Imagine eating 160g of sugar in one sitting?

Taste: 6/10
I sort of hated the SmartSweets Peach Rings at first bite. But halfway through the bag, I began to enjoy them, and before I knew it, I finished the bag. They taste the way artificial peach tastes—nothing like an actual peach, more like Snapple Peach Tea. I’d happily nosh on these in an airport.

Texture: 6/10
Comparable to Fruit Gushers. Yes, those Gushers from youth. Definitely not the same kind of chewy as the OG Peaches; they were more fruit snack, less gummy candy. They only minimally stuck to my teeth, so I didn’t find chewing them to be a chore.

Price:
SmartSweets Peach Rings: $24 for 8 or $3/bag
Haribo Peaches: $3.75/ 8oz. bag

2. Sweet Fish vs. Swedish Fish

 

Nutrition Facts

Sweet Fish

Swedish Fish

Serving Size 

1 1.8-ounce  bag

1 3.1-ounce box

Calories

100

320

Total Fat

0g

0g

Sodium

70mg

70mg

Total Carbohydrate

42g

78g

Dietary Fiber

13g

0g

Sugars

3g

69g

Incl Added Sugars

0g

69g

Protein

0g

0g

At 320 calories and 69g of sugar, Swedish Fish are actually the best full-sugar option on this list (unless, of course, you can stick to just four Haribo Peaches). But that still doesn’t make them nutritious. On paper, SmartSweets Sweet Fish is the clear winner in terms of calories, carbs, sugar, and fiber content.

Taste: 4/10
Swedish Fish seem like they’d be hard to get wrong—there’s not much to them. But I suppose, what makes them great, is that they’re pure chewy, sugary goodness. Strip one of those away and they’re just meh.

That’s what the SmartSweets Sweet Fishes are…just meh. The stevia aftertaste is especially potent, and they only slightly remind me of the real deal. Although, because they lack a sour powdery coating like some of the others on this list, they were slightly more bearable.

Texture: 5/10
While the Sweet Fish stuck to my teeth, I can’t knock them too bad, because so do Swedish Fish. Though, the SmartSweets version almost has a leg up, because they’re smaller in size, which means not as much candy gets stuck to your chompers. If it wasn’t for the taste, I might be able to mistake these for real Swedish Fish, based on mouthfeel alone.

Price:
Sweet Fish: $24 for 8 (or $3/bag)
Swedish Fish: $2.29/ 3.1oz box

3. Sour Blast Buddies vs. Sour Patch Kids

Nutrition Facts

Sour Blast Buddies

Sour Patch Kids

Serving Size 

1 1.8-ounce bag

1 3.5-ounce  box

Calories

100

360

Total Fat

0g

0g

Sodium

70mg

80mg

Total Carbohydrate

42g

88g

Dietary Fiber

13g

0g

Sugars

3g

78g

Incl Added Sugars

0g

78g

Protein

0g

0g

Just, wow. 78g of added sugar in a box of Sour Patch Kids is 156 percent of your daily value. And the box isn’t even that full. I could easily absentmindedly house the whole box in a single session. The 3g of sugar from fruit juice and 13g of fiber in SmartSweets looks healthy in comparison.

Taste: 3/10
Sour Patch lovers: these SmartSweets dupes are just not it. Along with the terrible texture (see below), the taste is baffling. Gone are the telltale sour sugar crystals coating the outside of Sour Patch Kids. Instead, they have a sour-like powdery film that’s neither satisfying nor comparable to the original. The only saving grace here is the flavor variety—there are at least four different colors of Sour Blast Buddies, so you might be able to find one you can tolerate. But if you’re a true sour connoisseur, do yourself a favor and stick to the real deal.

Texture: 2/10
The only thing worse than these sticking to my molars would be if they disintegrated into a gritty paste upon contact. At first bite, some stuck to my top molars and some to my bottom, so that when I chewed, the two just kind of mashed together. I don’t know how I’m even supposed to eat more than one.

Price:
Sour Blast Buddies: $24 for 8 (or $3/bag)
Sour Patch Kids: $2.29/3.5oz box

4. Sourmelon Bites vs. Sour Patch Watermelons

Nutrition Facts

Sourmelon Bites

Sour Patch Watermelons

Serving Size 

1 1.8-ounce  bag

1 3.5-ounce box

Calories

100

360

Total Fat

0g

0g

Sodium

70mg

115mg

Total Carbohydrate

42g

90g

Dietary Fiber

13g

0g

Sugars

3g

78g

Incl Added Sugars

0g

78g

Protein

0g

0g

Again, the most shocking part of the Sour Patch Watermelons’ nutrition label is the sheer volume of sugar—78g. They also have the highest sodium content of any of the sweets I tested, at 115mg, though that’s still only 5 percent of your daily value. The SmartSweets Sourmelon Bites weigh in at 100 calories, 42g of carbs, 13g of fiber, and 3g of sugar.

Taste: 2/10
Everyone knows that Sour Patch Watermelons are the superior sour candy. Unsurprisingly, they just don’t hit the same in the SmartSweets version. Aside from the watermelon flavor, the powdery sour coating still doesn’t work. It’s sadly gonna be a big no for me.

Texture: 2/10
I repeat, how am I supposed to eat more than one? The watermelons stuck to my molars the same way the Sour Blast Buddies did. Even worse, the watermelons also suck to each other in the bag, so I had no choice but to eat three at once.

Price:
Sourmelon Bites: $24 for 8 (or $3/bag)
Sour Patch Watermelons: $2.29/3.5oz box

The Bottom Line

Smart Sweets are a low-calorie candy that are just that: candy that tastes low-calorie. Most of the flavors were unbearable, didn’t satiate my sugar craving, and clung to my molars for dear life. If I’m craving sweets, I’d rather indulge in a small portion of the box/bag of the OG candies for roughly the same amount of calories and fewer carbs. The only exception is the SmartSweets Peach Rings, which I despised at first, and then grew to love—I’d grab those at a gas station in a pinch and happily munch through the entire bag.

  1. DiNicolantonio, James J et al. (2018). “Sugar addiction: is it real? A narrative review.
  2. Lenoir, Magalie et al. (2007). “Intense sweetness surpasses cocaine reward.
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