Fun, Fit and Flavorful Easter Basket Goodies

Easter is on its way! Along with Peter Cottontail, you and your kids will encounter more than your share of sugar-packed jellybeans, malted milk balls, cream-filled chocolate eggs and life-size chocolate bunnies. The common Easter basket is filled to the brim with pastel-colored candy eggs, bunnies, lambs and more, but while celebrating with sweets is fine in moderation, eating a pound of chocolate eggs in a matter of days doesn't fall under that definition.

This year, why not load your baskets and office candy jars with some alternative treats? Teach your children, grandkids, friends and co-workers that you can enjoy this spring holiday, basket and all, without overindulging in sugar. And when you do choose to treat yourself, be conscious of your choices. Instead of eating on a whim from a bottomless basket, plan your treats each day and track your calories. Don't throw away your wrappers when you're finished; keeping them in sight will become a visual reminder of how much you've already eaten, and you'll be less likely to keep reaching into that basket without thinking first.

Here are some more ideas that will inspire you to think outside the basket and still have fun this Easter!

Those hard-boiled, decorated Easter eggs are a healthful addition to any basket. Don't let all that lean, filling protein go to waste! Peel and eat your dyed eggs plain, with or without the yolk. Consider slicing them onto a salad, including them in a wrap or pita, or making them into egg salad with light mayonnaise for a tasty springtime sandwich.

Plastic eggs are a great way to add a celebratory twist to your basket, but be careful how you stuff them. Tuck sugar-free gum, small boxes of raisins, or miniature packets of peanuts into the colorful eggs for a healthy twist. For kids, fill the eggs with age-appropriate prizes, such as beaded jewelry, lip balm, small toys or other fun tokens. Coins and small bills make for exciting treasure as well!

Beyond Bunny Carrots
For a festive look, pack orange crackers (like cheddar Goldfish made with whole grains) or dried apricots into a triangle pastry bag. Tie some green ribbon or raffia to the top and you have a healthy carrot-shaped goodie. You can even take a black permanent marker and draw a carrot onto the outside of the plastic bag to create a more distinguished look.

Create cute and tasty carrot-shaped homemade granola bars by baking your recipe in a pan and then cutting your masterpiece into lengthy triangles. Wrap them in baggies to pop into baskets. You can even add a few drops of orange food dye to make your "carrots" more colorful!

Vegetables aren’t the only thing your little bunnies should be eating this Easter! Dried fruit is a great way to meet your daily fruit quota. For ease, purchase it at the store, but be sure to read ingredients labels and avoid items with added sugar. You can also use a dehydrator at home to make your own dried fruit. Try apricots, mangos, apples, banana slices, cherries, and pear slices. When you dry your fruit at home, you don’t have to add any sugar and it tastes great! It can also be a fun project for kids to do with you.

Hop to Health
Who says an Easter basket should only contain edible surprises? You can include creative items that promote movement and aerobic activity, too. A jump rope packs easily into a grass-filled basket and can be used year-round. Hop to heart health with this great calorie burning, muscle-building, and fun activity. Get a rope long enough and three or four people can partake, double-dutch style.

Rev up a game of hopscotch outside by packing a box of sidewalk chalk into your child's basket. It’s a simple way to get them outside and active, and to teach them to play games without cords and controllers. Enrich their minds and bodies with this idea! In addition, don't forget about balls, which are inexpensive and can entice kids of all ages to play outdoors.

Brain Treats
Books are a great non-food gift for a loved one of any age. Slip the latest tween fiction series, a copy of the traditional Easter Bunny tales, or the most recent non-fiction best seller.

Other ways to pop some fun into your gifts baskets are to add playing cards and a small book of card games. This addition can provide good old-fashioned family fun. Small and portable travel games are always useful, as are packets of crossword or math puzzles. Pair these gifts with sets of colored pens or pencils and it’ll be a sure hit.

Reach your 10,000 Steps
Increase your activity on Easter morning and help your family reach the recommended goal of 10,000 steps a day by encouraging additional activity to help offset some of the candy and sweets you'll be eating. Hide your healthy Easter baskets in a discrete spot in the house or yard and put together a scavenger hunt to lead your kids and friends to them with multiple clues and stops. At each station, leave a physical activity assignment (have your scavengers perform jumping jacks, frog leaps, push-ups or other silly tasks) along with the clue for the next location on the hunt. Make sure to follow the group around as they search to help get your steps in, too!

Enjoy your sweet treats in moderation and get creative to include some healthier items in your celebration! Encouraging your children, friends and family members to find alternate ways to celebrate Easter that don't always involve candy can keep your traditions alive and set a positive example for health living. Happy Easter!