Perhaps no holiday icon has become as connected with sweets as the Easter Bunny, the bearer of baskets filled with all manner of candies and other sweet temptations.
Whether for adult family members or children, your Easter basket doesn’t have to wreck your diet the way Halloween does.
Here are some ideas to help make your Easter basket a bit more health conscious. But don’t worry: chocolate is still very much a key component.
For the adults
Chocolate and...: Give your loved one their chocolate fix without as much guilt by dipping strawberries, banana slices or grapes in melted chocolate. The treats can be wrapped in cupcake holders or muffin papers to avoid staining other items in the basket. Or, to cut back on the chocolate even more, drizzle it over the fruit with the tines of a fork.
Individually wrapped candies: Another, less obvious way of making your basket healthier is ditching candy bars in favor of smaller, individually wrapped squares of chocolate. They offer built-in portion control and, if the recipient exercises some willpower, can last longer, too.
Dark chocolate: It seems that more studies extol the health virtues of dark chocolate, including a nine-year study of more than 30,000 women who, according to Women’s Health magazine, found their risk of heart failure cut by as much as a third by eating a serving or two of dark chocolate a week. The trick is to choose a brand with at least 70 percent cacao, according to Healthyeater.com. Cacao, a main ingredient in dark chocolate, has been shown to help lower blood pressure and reduce heart disease risk.
Hard-boiled eggs: A great source of protein, they can be colored naturally using beet juice or boiled cabbage.
Peanut butter eggs: Not the store-bought kind, which are often full of unhealthy ingredients, but homemade. You can make your own with easy-to-get ingredients and substitute almond butter for more fiber, iron and Vitamin E.
Gift cards: The possibilities are nearly limitless with these small basket fillers. From Amazon to iTunes to any number of restaurants, coffee shops or health food stores, it’s easy to find a gift card to suit nearly any theme you may have in assembling your Easter basket.
For the kids
Easter baskets with healthy alternatives aren’t just for the grownups. A recent survey of nearly 2,000 parents by retail website Mydeals.com discovered that the average child consumes more than 5,000 calories worth of junk food over the Easter holiday. You don’t have to completely do away with the bunny-shaped chocolates and gummy candies that the kids eagerly anticipate. But there are some ideas that can help bring balance to your young one’s Easter basket.
Chocolate in moderation: Rather than cutting out chocolate completely, think about providing it in conjunction with healthy fare. Most supermarkets carry items like chocolate-dipped strawberries and dried apricots that go well with most conventional Easter treats. Especially if allergies aren’t an issue, chocolate-covered almonds and raisins are also good alternative snacks.
Gold bunnies: Cheesy snacks are another healthier alternative for filling Easter baskets. Several brands come in whole wheat varieties, but a simple web search yields plenty of recipes for making your own. Easter-themed cookie cutters can help complete the assortment.
Carrot sticks: Is there anything more connected to what the Easter bunny eats? Another healthy alternative to go along with them is celery sticks which, when topped with peanut butter, can provide a good source of protein.
Jump rope: Not everything in the basket has to be edible. Inexpensive and small enough to include in most baskets easily, it’ll outlast the food and, just as importantly, help get a child exercising and thus further tip the scales in favor of good health and moderation.
Sidewalk chalk: There are few better ideas for encouraging the kids to put the eggs aside and head outdoors on a warm spring day for some memory-making (albeit messy) fun.