Easter celebrations go together with chocolate bunnies, eggs and sweets. But these treats are often loaded with unhealthy trans-fat, sugar, colourants and preservatives. Despite this, Easter is synonymous with chocolate and kids tend to get caught up in the hype of the “Easter hunt”, where little baskets are brimming with all sorts of candies.
As parents, we all love to watch our little ones’ faces light up when they find Easter treats hidden all over the garden, says nutritionist and wellness coach Desi Horsman. But excessive amounts of fat and sugar aren’t good for us or our children. Here’s why…
The dangers of too much sugar
Desi explains that children should have less than five teaspoons of sugar a day. Add some tomato sauce and a soft drink and the quota is surpassed in just one meal. For example, one tablespoon of tomato sauce contains about 4g (around one teaspoon) of sugar, while a single can of soft drink contains up to 40g of sugar (about 10 teaspoons). Throw in a surplus of Easter treats and your child is well over the limit, says Desi.
For the average healthy child who eats a balanced diet most of the time, a day of Easter treats won’t have a huge impact on the body. However, for toddlers and little children it’s best to limit the sweet and chocolate binge, as that teaspoon of sugar can shut down a child’s immune system for a few hours, warns Desi. The same applies to those who suffer with allergies and behavioural issues. Overindulging even for a day will have a setback effect. Many children receive more Easter eggs than they can eat in one sitting, so the binge often continues for a few days.
The good news is that “more and more families are shifting towards a healthier lifestyle that allows for special celebrations to be enjoyed with nutritious treats instead”, says Cape-Town based nutritionist Megan Bosman. For instance, “it’s well known that most of the chocolate you see on the supermarket shelves isn’t healthy. This is largely due to the way it’s manufactured”, she explains. “However, the key ingredient, cocoa, is low in fat, contains virtually no sugar and is loaded with antioxidants. So rather than overindulging in the sugary, milky kind, why not spend some time with your little ones in the kitchen and make your own healthy chocolate treats using cocoa as the main ingredient?”
If you don’t have time to bake, try Megan’s easy healthy swaps here:
Traditional treat: Chocolate balls or eggs.
Healthier option: Fruit, such as grapes or strawberries, dipped in dark chocolate or a handful of raisons coated in dark chocolate.
Traditional treat: Chocolate Easter bunny.
Healthier option: Fruit platter in the shape of an Easter bunny, using bananas and apple slices with a nut butter dip or one tablespoon of chocolate spread.
Traditional treat: Chocolate milkshake.
Healthier option: Mix 1 tbsp cocoa powder, 1 tsp xylitol, ½ tsp organic vanilla extract and 1 cup almond milk. Sprinkle with cinnamon (optional).
Traditional treat: A soft drink served with Easter lunch.
Healthier option: Diluted fruit juice or freshly juiced carrot and apple concentrate. It’s also important to ensure that your little one drinks plenty of water to flush out any excess sugar.
Desi also has a few healthier Easter swaps:
Instead of: Only using chocolate for the Easter egg hunt…
Try: Wrapping carrots in pretty paper or paint a few hard-boiled eggs with food colouring and hide them in the house or garden. For an even healthier twist, try using natural dyes, such as saffron for yellow, purple cabbage for blue, raspberries for red and beetroot for purple.
Tip: If you want to encourage your little ones to eat the hard-boiled eggs, spend some time together hand-painting them. You can use a variety of fun shapes, colours and pictures. They’ll add to the table décor and are a good low-fat protein snack to keep hunger at bay and help avoid sugar spikes.
Instead of: Buying Easter eggs…
Try: Making your own healthier version. Simply melt unsweetened, dark chocolate with stevia or xylitol into various moulds to make your shapes. Carob can also be used to make healthier treats, but it doesn’t melt as smoothly as chocolate.
Instead of: Letting your kids overindulge in white candy-coated Easter eggs…
Try: Prefilling the plastic Easter egg cartons with healthier treats like nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike.