Nothing against jelly beans and marshmallow Peeps (except that they’re full of sugar, empty calories and artificial dyes). It’s just that if we’re going to achieve our ideal shape — by swimsuit season, no less — we need to approach Easter with caution!
When it comes to holidays, Easter rivals Halloween in terms of a candy avalanche. Even if you don’t personally celebrate Easter, you’re bound to get buried!
Sure, those colorful, bountiful baskets look pretty. But they come with a price: excess sugar is linked with diabetes and weight gain, and food coloring is suspected of causing ADHD and hyperactivity. This year, help your family and coworkers rethink Easter treats!
We’ve rounded up the IdealShape team’s favorite healthy Easter basket ideas, low on sugar, carbs and dyes but high in fun! Doing Easter gluten-free? This is your guide! You don’t have to go all “crayons-and-coloring books,” but trading the sugar mountain for a sugar molehill (or some fun toys!) is a great start.
Mix Healthy Snacks In
First, a reality check with regard to some common Easter candy favorites:
- Marshmallow Bunnies = 26 calories + 6 grams of sugar per piece
- Jelly Beans = 41 calories + 8 grams of sugar per 10 beans
- M&Ms = 233 calories + 31 grams of sugar per package
- Hershey’s bar = 210 calories + 24 grams sugar
- Cadbury Creme Egg = 150 calories + 20 grams of sugar!!
As we can see, the calories and sugar add up fast. Who needs all that?! You might pick one or two sugary treats to avoid the feeling of deprivation, but then fill up the rest of the basket with healthy snacks like fruit, pretzels, nuts, trail mix and granola bars.
Opt for Quality Chocolate
You might assume that the Hershey’s bar and Cadbury egg are healthier than jelly beans and Peeps, but probably not. Commercial chocolate is full of milk and sugar, and it’s so heavily processed that it doesn’t contain much of the healthy properties of chocolate.
Higher quality chocolate is more expensive, but less processed, so the healthy flavanols remain (that’s where we get antioxidant qualities and possible heart benefits). In its purer form, artisan chocolate contains only cacao, cocoa butter and a little sugar. It passes the gluten-free test. And personally, I find that my craving is satisfied with a much smaller portion of the good stuff!
Make Homemade Treats
To avoid excess sugar and artificial additives, it’s best to avoid packaged goodies altogether. Preparing Easter treats at home lets you control the ingredients.
While they may still be on the decadent side, at least you can limit the amount of sugar and fat, skip the dyes and use fresh ingredients.
Here’s an Easter worthy treat: Orange Blueberry Muffin Smoothie recipe!
Fill Baskets with Non-treat Items
Filling Easter baskets with activity items means there will be fewer treats to eat, plus everyone will be too busy having fun to go looking for candy. Win-win!
Some of my favorite basket stuffer ideas from around the web are: games, character bandaids, fun toothbrushes, markers, sidewalk chalk, outdoor toys, pool toys, flip flops, jump ropes and festive picnicware.
For the big kids, movie gift cards and iTunes gift cards are nice. Also, it’s my personal belief that you can’t go wrong with stuffed animals. (I’m not sure I should admit this, but I still have all the bunnies I got in my Easter baskets as a kid.)
Use the Plastic Eggs to Ration Treats
I recently heard someone suggest filling plastic Easter eggs with Cheerios, but frankly, if my nieces and nephews found cereal in their eggs at the end of a riveting Easter egg hunt, there would be mutiny.
A few pieces of candy in each plastic egg is still exciting, however, and far better than giving out a whole bag of jelly beans or M&Ms. You can also put little toys in half of the eggs, like bouncy balls or parachute men. I’d hunt for that!
Any Tips We Missed?
Alas, it’s impossible to escape a barrage of treats on Easter — there will always be well-meaning grandparents, neighbors and coworkers bearing basketfuls. But you can deal with holiday candy strategically. Ration it out. Keep it out of sight. Choose one “cheat” for each day so you don’t eat everything that crosses your path.
Finally, rethink the tradition of putting baskets filled with sweets out on the breakfast table, where everyone is likely to dive in first thing in the morning and spoil their appetite for healthy food.
What’s your strategy for having a healthy Easter?