By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
Easter is one those holidays that boost the sales of candy companies, much like Halloween and Valentine’s Day. While nutritionists say it’s fine to enjoy those jelly beans and chocolate bunnies in moderation, there are lots of ways to make Easter baskets on the healthier side.
Below are seven tips to keep in mind when putting together this year’s baskets for both adults and children
GO FOR DARK CHOCOLATE
“Dark chocolate is thought to have many wonderful properties that can actually be healthy if eaten in moderation,” said registered dietitian Ashvini Mashru.
Mashru is the owner of Wellness Nutrition Concepts which is based in Malvern. She said dark chocolate is a wonderful way to sweeten up Easter baskets if it’s done in moderation and people aren’t over indulgent.
A LITTLE CANDY GOES A LONG WAY
“I think where people go wrong with Easter baskets is not so much the occasional candy but the amount that’s in there. There are Easter candies that come already pre-portioned and in cute little snack bags,” said registered dietitian Lisa Diewald.
Diewald sees clients at Nutrition for Living which has locations in Kennett Square and Exton. She said children form habits from an early age so it’s important they are shown proper moderation instead of learning about it on TV. Diewald recommends adding more nutritious items in the mix with candy like nuts, low-fat cheese sticks and rice cakes.
“I think if you have some of these healthy things mixed in with pre-portioned or portion-controlled amounts of traditional chocolates then you’re giving the message that this is balanced,” she said.
GET JERKY WITH IT
Ben Nonnemacher owns a Beef Jerky Outlet at the Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Limerick. The Tennessee-based jerky store has numerous flavor options along with other foods that can be added to an Easter basket for both adults and children. The United States Department of Agriculture describes jerky as a “nutrient-dense meat that has been made lightweight by drying.”
“We have over 100 flavors and varieties of beef jerky products,” Nonnemacher said adding that there are exotic options like kangaroo, alligator and antelope.
In addition to spiced meat products, the outlet also sells vegetable snacks like dried wasabi peas and pickled asparagus. There’s even popcorn, trail mix and yogurt-covered pretzels available. The Beef Jerky Outlet has barbecue sauces, jams and seasonings as well which can be added to Easter baskets for adults. Nonnemacher said people could use such items when preparing their Easter Sunday meal.
EGG IT UP
Diewald said hard-boiled eggs is a common addition to Easter baskets and that a few of them are a healthy addition. She said the eggs can add to the festivities by being painted in bright Easter colors.
ADD SOME COLOR WITH FRUITS & VEGGIES
“Fruits and veggies are a fantastic way to jazz up an Easter basket,” said Mashru. “Fruit comes in all kinds of shapes and colors too so they are visually gorgeous.”
She said some flavorful vegetables great for Easter include carrots, celery and cucumbers. Healthy dips and sauces can also be added to the basket.
Diewald said clementines are a good, colorful fruit to add to Easter baskets. Clementines are a type of orange.
“They’re appealing. They’re sweet. They’re easy to eat. They’re seedless. A lot of children particularly enjoy them,” she said.
She also said some of the candy in Easter baskets can be replaced with dried pineapples, figs, raisins or dates since they are naturally sweet and more nourishing.
EASTER DOESN’T HAVE TO BE ALL ABOUT TREATS
“Of course kids will get excited about candy but on holidays like Easter, kids are often bombarded with more candy than they could eat in a week!” Mashru said.
She said instead of filling Easter baskets exclusively with sugary goodies, add other Easter-themed items. Examples include books, coloring pages, markers and stuffed animals like a bunny. Mashru said these extra additions will help take the emphasis off the sweets.
Diewald said she’s added bright-colored leggings to her daughter’s Easter basket. She said clothes are a terrific addition especially when they come in bright colors associated with the holiday. Items such as barrettes or tank tops can be rolled up and tied with a piece of ribbon.
ADD FIT TOYS
“There are so many simple toys that kids love that also encourage fun and movement,” Mashru said.
She said jump ropes, hopscotch games, hula-hoops, and kites are a few active toys that can be added to Easter baskets. Even when it comes to Easter egg hunts, Mashru recommends filling the eggs with treasures instead of treats. Treasures can include coins, stickers, costume jewelry and more. She said not only will the hunt be fun but it will help children work off excess energy and get exercise.