Try healthy treats in your kids’ Easter basket

Maureen Lamerdin, O.M.D.

Easter is just around the corner and with it comes lots of sugar for kids in those beautiful multicolored plastic eggs and bountiful baskets. It can be fun for our kids to indulge in peeps, jelly beans, chocolate covered marshmallow eggs, oh and you can’t forget the huge solid milk chocolate bunnies. This tradition has been around for a long time and is hard to break, but are we making the right choices in feeding our kids so much sugar?

According the American Heart Association (AHA) and the World Health Organization female adults should have no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day, male adults no more than 9 teaspoons of sugar a day and for our kids, no more than 4 teaspoons a day. Now, there is plenty of research that states that even this is too much. However, if we were to take the above example and explore just how much sugar the most popular Easter candy contains, we can get a bigger picture of how much sugar we’re pouring into our kids.

A typical Easter basket contains the following:

• 5 peeps contain 34 grams of sugar each = 8.5 teaspoons of sugar

• 140 jelly belly beans – 306 grams of sugar = 76 teaspoons of sugar

• 2 chocolate covered marshmallow eggs – 28 grams of sugar = 7 teaspoons of sugar

• 1 4.5 oz. solid milk chocolate bunny – 72 grams of sugar = 18 teaspoons of sugar

Does that sweet little basket sound familiar to you? Then, on Easter morning you’ll drop the motherlode of 109 teaspoons of sugar on your precious darling. This is more sugar than the average child should eat in 27 days!

Many people think, oh big deal it’s only one day, it can’t hurt that bad. Here is why you should rethink this choice:

1. Sugar is addictive – Sugar is like a drug, you eat a little and you want a whole lot more in everything you consume.

2. Sugar can destroy your liver – Processed sugars act like a toxin in your body and make your liver work overtime to get rid of them. Studies show that excessive sugar actually has the same toxic effect on your liver as excessive alcohol consumption.

3. Sugar will make you fat – Too much sugar and your liver just can’t keep up. It turns that excess sugar into fat.

4. Sugar feeds cancer – More and more research is showing that cancer cells feed on sugar. They will replicate at a faster rate when you feed them more.

5. Sugar causes inflammation – Inflammation in the body can lead to many illnesses including chronic pain. When people cut the sugar down or out, they start feeling better.

It is no wonder than that 1out of 3 children in the U.S. are now considered overweight or obese. Risk Factors for overweight and obesity include; type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, stroke, hypertension, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and other breathing problems, cancer (breast, colorectal, endometrial and kidney to name a few), complications of pregnancy, and menstrual irregularities.

So, how can you celebrate Easter with your kids and still celebrate the tradition of Easter baskets and finding yummy treasures in those colorful eggs? Here are some ideas to cut down the sugar and still make it fun.

1. Replace milk chocolate bunnies with high quality antioxidant- rich dark chocolate and limit to just a few ounces. Spend the day making homemade treats to sneak into baskets, using dates or applesauce as replacements for the sugar in your recipes.

2. Place fresh fruit in your child’s basket, like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cuties.

3. Place temporary tattoos or stickers in those plastic eggs.

4. Create a gardening basket. Pack it with a large flower pot with herbs, organic seeds, soil, shovels, trowels, gloves and a watering can. Take it a step further and create a theme for the basket, such as a pizza garden theme with basil, oregano, peppers, tomatoes and parsley. This time of year kids are getting excited for warm weather to come and go to the beach so why not do a beach theme.

5. If you must use candy in those eggs, try the healthier options in the health isle that don’t contain as much sugar, preservatives and dyes.

6. Use REAL eggs!

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