It's Easter season, which means (among other, much more significant things!) that grocery store shelves are stocked with the best candy of the year. Cream-filled eggs, more chocolate than you can shake a stick at, and, my favorite, Peeps. Sweet, crunchy in their singular and stale way, Peeps make me smile. This in turn makes the Best Husband Ever Shake his head at me in pity -- he thinks Peeps are rather revolting.
Still, as much as I love a good Peep, there's not much that's redeeming about them. 140 calories for 5 peeps isn't bad for a treat, but there is nothing nutritional in them. At all. Plus, they're completely composed of refined sugars, which spikes and drops your blood pressure like nobody's business.
So when I spied some sugar-free Peeps at Wal-Mart, I had to try them. Yes, I know that Splenda is probably even worse for you than refined sugars, but I was curious. How do "healthy" Peeps measure up? The nutrition facts are fairly close. While both sugar-free and regular Peeps contain no fat, the sugar-free version totals only 60 calories for 3 chicks, which is 20 calories per Peep. The regular variety calculates to 28 calories per Peep.
Next came the taste test. The sugar-free Peeps look just like the normal ones, so I hoped that the same would be true for taste. It was, for the most part. The sugar-free Peeps tasted just a little more fake, if that makes sense. Still, since regular Peeps are fairly fake themselves, I didn't find the deficit too concerning. Also, the sugar-free chicks were not as crunchy as I would have liked. Probably due to the fact that Splenda is a relatively new invention, and these Peeps were not manufacture sufficient decades ago to allow for optimum staleness.
There was only one thing left to do -- the microwave test. Dreaded by Peeps everywhere, this test provides far too much pleasure and amusement for sadistic Peep enthusiasts like myself. There is no simpler food-related joy than to watch a Peep slowly blow up and deform under appliance-level radiation. But would sugar-free Peeps react in the same way?
The answer is yes. Sugar-free Peeps distend quite satisfactorily in the microwave. Although they also deflate and flatten quickly. I can't recall if regular Peeps do this as well, so I will discount this factor. Once the Peep in question was nuked, there was still a last step to take -- taste test number two.
This is the stage where the plucky sugar-free Peep finally fell short of the real deal. The marshmallow was extra gooey as I decapitated the Peep with a spoon. I sniffed the spoonful -- it smelled toasty and delicious. I tasted it -- sweet and delectable, with just a hint of fake-ness. I chewed. And chewed. And finally tried to swallow -- and choked on the now-unrecognizable Peep. Apparently, microwaved sugar-free Peeps turn into glue, and I could not break it down enough with my teeth to swallow safely. Instead, it stayed in a gooey string, which was decidedly unpleasant. I guess the Peep had its revenge in the end.
While my sugar-free Peep experiment was fun, I did not appreciate the Peep's final attempt on my life. Also, while the nutrition stats for sugar-free Peeps are slightly better than their sugar-ful counterparts, it doesen't seem to be enough to justify the fake aftertaste, the lack of proper staleness, and the strang glue-ification phenomenon when exposed to radiation. If you're going to have a treat, do it right and get the real things, peeps. It's worth it. Besides, those sugar-free Peeps can be tricky little buggers. Best to keep it safe, eh?