Easter, like many other holidays, is often chocked full of unhealthy foods, but it doesn't have to be. There are some surprising choices available that don't skimp on "the yummy factor" and are healthier than the solid chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks of the past.
1. Easter-Themed Granola
Granola is full of all sorts of beneficial nutrients, depending upon the ingredients, and is a great way to give kids a sweet treat without loading them up on empty calories. Granola is a very versatile snack. By adding a variety of dried fruits, the granola can be tailored to individual tastes or any festive occasion. For Easter, dried strawberry slices (which look like hearts) pineapple and papaya add festive pastel color as well as nutrients to the granola. Just one homemade granola bar contains an estimated 160 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of fiber and 3 grams of protein, much lower than the standard solid chocolate bar.
2. Peanut M&Ms
While it may seem like peanut M&Ms aren't exactly healthy, the truth may be surprising. While they are high in calories, research has shown that eating peanuts actually reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes, in addition to a number of other chronic health conditions. The best choice is the dark chocolate variety of peanut M&Ms because dark chocolate also contains beneficial antioxidants and flavanols that help improve cardiovascular health. Chocolate is rather high in calories, so portion control is important. One 1.5 ounce serving of dark chocolate peanut M&Ms contains 220 calories, 12 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. By filling plastic Easter eggs with just a few M&Ms, parents can avoid the calorie and sugar spike that comes with eating a whole bag.
3. Easter Bunny Trail Mix
The kids can get in on the fun of making this treat, and it's versatile too. Nearly any sort of healthy snack can go into the trail mix including:
- Popcorn, which is low in calories and contains fiber
- Cereals, which are fortified with nutrients and some are even gluten free
- Dried fruits
Mix up a big batch of this and portion it out in small bowls. Because many of these ingredients, like popcorn, are quite bulky, it's better to use a food scale to measure the servings instead of measuring cups.
Parents can also keep the calories down by using sucralose instead of sugar and other sweet spices such as "the cookie spices" cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice to make this into a sweet treat that doesn't pack a sugary punch. Narrowing down nutritional information can be difficult with this trail mix because the ingredients can be so different. Parents should be sure that they read the labels of whatever ingredients they use to be sure that they don't overdo the sugar and calories.
4. Hollow Dark Chocolate Bunny
As mentioned earlier, dark chocolate has been shown in research to have some beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. And while dark chocolate does pack a bit of a calorie punch, hollow chocolate bunnies and eggs actually keep the fat and calories to a minimum. This is one area where parents need to be careful, though. The temptation for small children is to eat the entire bunny at once, so when selecting hollow chocolate bunnies, be sure to follow the following tips:
- Select the highest percentage of cacao possible
- Select the smallest portion possible
- Be sure that the bunny or egg is hollow
- Look in specialty stores for the best quality bunnies and eggs (often this is where the healthiest ones will be found including those that are kosher, dairy free and organic)
Nutritional information can vary based upon the size of the bunny; so again, parents need to read the label carefully.
5. Easter Smoothie
Easter smoothies can be a great, healthy treat for kids, and often they don't even know they are drinking something healthy. Plus it's a favorite of the Easter Bunny himself. Many fruits and vegetables can be blended into smoothies along with non-fat yogurt, soy milk or other beneficial foods. Since these are so simple to make, each child can have a smoothie for his or her individual tastes.
Smoothies can be somewhat high in calories, especially if milk is used. To keep calories to a minimum, opt for non-fat yogurt or fruit sorbet in the smoothies. The nutritional values can vary with this smoothie, but when fat is kept to a minimum, all the wonderful vitamins and minerals in these smoothies make them a wonderful, sweet treat that any parent can feel good about.
Parents don't need to deprive their children of treats on Easter. By carefully reading labels, exercising portion control and making wise food decisions, parents can allow children to indulge in Easter treats without loading them up with extra fat and sugar.