Ranking candies that I can’t eat

October 6, 2021 — by Jason Cheng
Piles of Halloween candy line the aisles of grocery stores.

It’s that time of year again. The season of trick-or-treating into the depths of the night, searching for boatloads of candy dressed in outlandish costumes sounds like a whole lot of fun — for everyone except me, at least. 

I hope someone out there can relate to my plight — I’m severely limited by my gluten-dairy allergy combo in addition to my extremely health-conscious diet.

So how exactly am I able to rank candy? 

Let’s start by taking a look at Thrillist’s top 30 candy choices ever. Say goodbye to milk chocolate (thanks, allergies): no Reese’s, no Snickers, no KitKats, no Butterfingers, no Hershey’s bars, no Skittles, no M&Ms — you get the point.

Luckily, our list is significantly more manageable now. Off the top, Laffy Taffy is out of the running: It takes longer for the sticky debris to detach from your teeth than it takes for your body to digest a five-course meal.

Furthermore, Twizzlers apparently contain gluten — something I had to learn the hard way — so I’m tossing them out too. 

Hint: Read the ingredient labels, kids with food allergies.

On a similar note, Tootsie Pops are another security threat for my body. It’s an appealing lollipop on the outside, but the unnecessary addition of a chocolate core makes for a risky ride  only to be attempted when I’m feeling adventurous, which is never.

So what’s left? 

We still haven’t mentioned Starbursts, Nerds, Sour Patch Kids, Jolly Ranchers or Airheads: This lineup isn’t too alluring, and it doesn’t help that we’ve already sunk to the very bottom of the list without really judging the taste of any candy. 

To begin with, Airheads are budget ripoffs of Laffy Taffy, and I really can’t enjoy Sour Patch Kids. Candy is meant to be sweet — not sour — and I’ll stand by this unpopular opinion for anyone who wants to argue. 

I don’t mind Nerds, to be honest, but I’m still not fond of shoving flavored pebbles into my mouth for pleasure.

That brings us to our final two contenders: Starbursts and Jolly Ranchers, which are essentially my entire Halloween diet. The fact that yellow and orange Starbursts exist is a crime, but we’ll let it go for now. On the other hand, Jolly Ranchers have so many unnecessarily average flavors (why grape?), and they’re another example of teeth-sticking candies.

The final verdict? By the finest of margins, I’m going with — drumroll please … Starbursts as my candy winner. While I usually end up wasting half of the Starbursts I receive (we can’t be friends if you like orange or lemon), cherry and strawberry are so good that I hoard hundreds of these little squares every Halloween.

I understand that almost no one else thinks of Starbursts as the go-to Halloween candy, but hear me out: Actually try a gluten and dairy-free Halloween, and you’ll see where I’m coming from — it’s rough out here in the restricted zone where food allergy-inflicted people like me live.