Easter Basket Candy: What Are You Really Eating?

For me, Easter morning always consisted of brunch, and seeing the kids in pretty pastel dresses and little suits. We didn’t go to Easter service very frequently. But many do attend Easter services at their local churches. Some attend Easter egg hunts, which often sends the children on a search for eggs, while the adults sip mimosas. A few of those moms and dads are scurrying around, holding their toddler’s hand and helping them find eggs.

But the most popular part of Easter morning in the U.S. includes Easter baskets. My parents filled mine with candy and a little Easter gimmick, like a wind-up chick or an Easter themed beanie baby toy.

It’s The Candy

Generally speaking, kids aren’t hunting around the house (including looking in the washer and dryer) for a wicker basket filled with dehydrated apple slices and Cuties mandarin or clementine oranges. They’re looking for the Peeps, the large hollowed-out (or not) chocolate bunnies, Jelly Beans and more.

One of the candies has the most participants in a social media guessing game: just search “what’s REALLY in a Peep?” There is a huge following around Peeps, including dioramas and peep-eating contests. I enjoy the dioramas myself (click here to see some, and to enter Peeps dioramas contests), but I don’t understand the fervor behind Peeps as a tasty snack. However, a gazillion people think otherwise, so let’s take a look at this.

Peep Probe

ChrisByrnes.com - Easter Marshmallow Peeps 2016
Easter Marshmallow Peeps

What IS in a Peep? I took it upon myself to find out the ingredients, and more about the most beloved sugar bomb marshmallow treat of the Easter holiday.

The Peep is a marshmallow candy, instantly recognizable by the chick shape and original bright yellow color. Easter is the most popular time for this candy, and the bunny shape and chick shape exist in the original flavor, colored pastel yellow, pink, blue, and purple. New additions for Easter include Orange Creme bunnies and chicks, Strawberry Creme chicks and Strawberry Delight chicks. There are Fruit Punch flavored chicks, Orange & Strawberry Creme chicks, Cotton Candy chicks, and if you prefer a challenge – white, “mystery” flavored Peeps. New this year are Peeps flavored in Blue raspberry, Party cake, and Sour watermelon. There was a Peeps Easter Egg Hunt at Six Flags yesterday, and we’ve found a recipe to make a Betty Crocker Peeps Flower Cake.

You may see Peeps at different times of the year, in other colors and shapes. For Valentine’s Day, there’s Milk Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Creme chicks, Chocolate Dipped and Drizzled Cherries, Red Mini Marshmallow Hearts, and Cherry Cordial Delight Marshmallow chicks. Peeps appear during the Summer as Patriotic Vanilla Creme in red/white/blue colors, chicks in bubble gum flavor, and Sweet Lemonade chicks in a yellow-white color, ala Lemon Ice. Halloween brings Marshmallow Tombstones, Marshmallow MINIONS, Banana Creme Flavored Marshmallow MINIONS, and Marshmallow Pumpkins. Christmas has Candy Cane Flavored Marshmallow Chicks, colored white with red specks, and Large Marshmallow Snowmen.

There is a huge cult following for Peeps. So much so, that recently the candy company decided to release complementary products for the brand. You can now get your stuffed Peeps, Peeps lip balm, decorative Peeps cups, Peeps water bottles, Peeps mice (for a computer), Peeps candles, Peeps golf balls, Peeps bags, Peeps blankets, and about 200 other miscellaneous Peeps items. Through March 31st, you can even vote for Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt to add Marshmallow Peeps flavored frozen yogurt, for your chance to win frozen yogurt for a year, a Peeps plush, or gift

What are Peeps Made of?

One serving of Peeps is considered approximately five pieces, each piece containing 28 calories. Almost all calories come from sugar (one Peep has about 7.2g of carbs, 6.8g of which are sugar). A 2012 study showed a high-intensity kettle-bell snatch workout could burn 20 calories per minute. So you’ll need to perform a 15-minute high-intensity kettle-bell workout in order to burn off the calories from one pack of 10 Peeps.

If you turn your Peeps package around, you’ll see ingredients of Sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, yellow dye #5 (Tartrazine), potassium sorbate (a preservative), “natural flavors,” and carnauba wax. Carnauba wax is also the main ingredient in commercial car waxes. Gelatin is made from animal collagen obtained from cattle hides, bones, and connective tissue (which means Peeps are not vegetarian!).

ChrisByrnes.com - Marshmallow Peep Experiments 2016
Marshmallow Peep Experiments

The Experiment

Peeps are sometimes jokingly described as “indestructible”. Emory University spent untold money and resources on the following Peeps effort to prove it untrue. In 1999, scientists at Emory University tested several batches of Peeps, to see how easily they could be dissolved, burned or otherwise disintegrated, using such agents as cigarette smoke, boiling water and liquid nitrogen. Emory claimed that the eyes “wouldn’t dissolve in anything”. Emory also claimed that Peeps are insoluble in acetone, water, diluted sulfuric acid, and sodium hydroxide.

Tell Me About the Rabbits!

ChrisByrnes.com - Headless Chocolate Bunny - Easter 2016
Headless Chocolate Bunny – Easter 2016

As for those chocolate bunnies, here’s a fun fact: the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) allows them to contain 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams and 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams. Sorry if you don’t want to eat the whole bunny at once now.

Jelly beans are usually vegetarian-friendly, made from sugar, corn syrup, starch, beeswax (not vegan) and dyes. Fun fact: During the presidency of Ronald Reagan, Jelly Belly beans were served in the Oval Office and on Air Force One. A special presidential holder was designed for the plane, so the jar of Jelly Belly beans would not spill during turbulence.

My particular favorite Jelly Belly is Bertie Bott’s (see ’em here)! Yes, major Harry Potter fan here. “Alas, earwax!” said Dumbledore.

Happy Easter!

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