Easter is around the corner, and Easter candy has been in stores for several weeks, tempting even the most disciplined eater. I am often asked what a parent can do to reduce the sugary and fatty goodies that fill most Easter baskets.
This is a tough question. As a nutritionist I value health and try to follow a healthy eating routine daily. But there are times when a little indulgence is ok.
Here are a few suggestions that may help. (Remember to select age-appropriate treats in all cases due to choking hazards in young children. Rules on when the treats can be enjoyed can help reduce the sugar and fat eaten at one time. And if there are pets in the house, make sure that they are not able to sample the treats or the non-edible Easter grass. I speak from experience with a Golden Retriever!)
For non-food treats, try the following:
- Plan a family outing and include tickets to an event. This could include a visit to the zoo, children’s museum, science center, or historical site.
- Interested in an Easter egg hunt? Check the newspaper and internet for events in your area.
- Pack the basket with small toys or stuffed animals. Coins work well, too.
- Promote creativity with art and craft items, books, blowing bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and bath accessories.
For food treats, consider these suggestions:
- Choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate. Research has shown that the chemicals in dark chocolate are better for the heart than other varieties. If chocolate eggs or bunnies are too much for your preference, try chocolate-covered versions of pretzels, nuts, or dried fruit.
- Look for candy with less fat per serving, such as Three Musketeers bars and Peppermint Patties. The mini size is just right for a basket.
- Remember fruit leather? This can be purchased or made at home. Recipes are numerous, and many fruits can be used.
- Make your own Rice Krispie treats. For added fun, use cookie cutters to make holiday shapes and then wrap in plastic wrap.
- Prepare trail mix and put the mix in decorated Easter bags.
- Make homemade cookies in Easter shapes. When making cookies at home, one can reduce the sugar by at least a third and still have a tasty product.
- If one must have Peeps and jelly beans, add just a few. The sugar content is high in these items. Or, substitute dried fruit. Dates, dried cherries, apricots, and blueberries are fun and also add fiber. Pack these in plastic eggs.
- And to help keep dental bills down, how about adding a toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste to encourage good dental habits?
Also, to make the hunt for goodies last longer, wrap and hide the different treats. Then have the kids look for these items and place in an empty basket. The fun lasts longer than when presenting a prepared basket. Have the treats color-coded so each child searches for a different color.
Be sure to include fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods at meals throughout the day. If weather permits, engage in some outdoor activity to use up the extra treat calories.