The Easter Bunny is the bearer of all things sweet, delicious, and right with the world. But this holiday doesn’t have to induce the same sugar high as Halloween. Instead, fill those Easter baskets with some healthy alternatives. (Yes, we’ve included veggies and fruit, but we promise chocolate still has a strong presence.)
1. Chocolate Covered Fruit
For a chocolate fix with a healthy dose of fruit, dip whole strawberries, grapes, or banana slices in melted chocolate. Microwave the chocolate on 50-percent power in 30-second increments, stirring between spurts, until smooth (or use a double boiler). Place the chocolate-ized fruit in mini muffin papers so the chocolate doesn’t smear all over the rest of the basket’s contents. To scale back on the chocolate, drizzle the melted stuff over fruit with the tines of a fork. For an added crunch, roll the fruit in chopped nuts (we like almonds, walnuts, pecans, and pistachios).
2. Fruit Snacks
Standard fruit snacks often contain a host of artificial flavors, synthetic colors, and preservatives. While it takes some time, it may be worthwhile to make your own fruit snacks using real fruit (this version uses just four ingredients—strawberries, lemon juice, honey, and gelatin). Pour the mixture into a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet and cut into cubes, or use bunny-shaped molds to get extra festive!
3. Individually-Wrapped Treats
Now that you know how to choose the good stuff, it’s time to healthify that Easter basket in another less obvious way. Chocolate bars are exciting and all, but individually wrapped spheres and squares of chocolate offer built-in portion control. Instead of ripping open a bar, grab one or two pieces at a time to enjoy.
4. Dark Chocolate
This time of year, drug stores and grocery stores stock their shelves with bunny- and egg- shaped treats… which are loaded with sugar, syrups, and hard-to-pronounce stuff. While we wouldn't tell you to forego candy completely (that's just cruel), you can choose a healthier chocolate bar by keeping a few things in mind. To reap the benefits of dark chocolate, choose a bar with 70 percent or more cacao. Healthy bonus points: Cacao has been shown to help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk for coronary heart disease Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Katz, D.L., Doughty, K., Ali, A. Yale University Prevention Research Center, Griffin Hospital, Derby, Connecticut. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling 2011;15(10):2779-811. Effects of chocolate, cocoa, and flavon-3-ols on cardiovascular health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. Hooper, L. Kay, C., Abelhamid, A., et al. Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2012;95(3):740-51.. Make sure the first ingredient on the label reads “cocoa butter” or “cocoa liquor.” When sugar is the first ingredient, it may taste sweeter, but it has far fewer health benefits. Organic chocolate bars, while generally a little pricier, are more bang for your buck. Why? They’ve got fewer ingredients (usually just cocoa, sugar, and sometimes an emulsifier, vanilla, and milk) while other bars feature artificial flavors and cocoa processed with alkali (which knocks out some of the flavanol antioxidants) Impact of alkalization on the antioxidant and flavanol content of commercial cocoa powders. Miller, K.B., Hurst, W.J., Payne, M.J., et al. Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition, The Hershey Company, Hershey, Pennsylvania. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2008 Sep 24;56(18):8527-33..
5. Peanut Butter Eggs
Name one person that doesn’t like peanut butter eggs. (Thought so.) Though store-bought eggs taste like the nectar of the Easter Gods, they’re often oversized and full of not-so-healthy ingredients. The filling, for instance, often contains more sugar than actual peanuts. Make your own PB eggs with recognizable ingredients and switch things up with almond butter for more fiber, iron, and vitamin E.
6. Gold Fish (or Bunnies!)
Cheesy snacks make an Easter-appropriate basket filler when they’re shaped like bunnies! We like Annie’s cheddar bunnies—which come in a whole-wheat variety—but it doesn’t take much to make your own. Grab a set of Easter-themed cookie cutters for festivity’s sake. While moderation is key with these cheesy little guys, the obvious benefit of homemade versions is that they actually use real cheese.
You don’t have to tell us carrots aren’t as cool as chocolate; we know. But the Easter Bunny loves ‘em, right? Wrap a few carrot sticks with green ribbon, or fill small cellophane bags with baby carrots to jazz the veggie up. Toss a few individual hummus containers in the basket as well for a healthy dipper.
8. Homemade Peeps
Easter without peeps is like Christmas without milk and cookies, Chanukah without gelt, and St. Patty’s day without green beer (the shame). For a healthier marshmallow chick remix, ditch the corn syrup and white sugar in favor of honey. We’re not saying these peeps are as healthy as a floret of broccoli, but at least they’re free of preservatives, artificial dyes, and carnauba wax (the main ingredient in car wax, which also makes an appearance in Peeps).
9. Graham Bunnies
Just like gold fish, feel free to make your own graham snacks without hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. Annie’s bunny grahams are a great choice for a pre-made version, which comes in a handful of varieties (such as vanilla, chocolate, and gluten-free snicker doodle). They’re still cookies, so eat the bunnies in moderation!
For a soothing sipper for after your giftee has reached a sugar high, include some canisters or boxes of tea. We really like the fun flavors from Republic of Tea and the pretty tea bags from Tea Forte.
11. Hard-Boiled Eggs
While creme eggs and peanut butter-filled chocolate eggs may take center stage on Easter, why not eat real eggs? This superfood-in-a-shell is just about 70 calories per egg and provides 6 grams of protein. Plus, they’re full of omega-3 fatty acids (important for heart health). And good news is that it’s OK to eat the whole egg! For perfect hard-boiled eggs, gently place them in a large saucepan, cover with about an inch of water, bring to a boil, remove from heat, and let sit for 12 minutes. Skip the artificial dye and try homemade versions using ingredients like saffron (yellow), cabbage (blue), and raspberries (red).
12. Nut Butter and Fruit
To keep the carrots company, chuck a few apples and bananas in that Easter basket. We like pairing them with Justin’s Almond Butter packets for a healthy fiber- and protein- filled snack.
13. Filled Plastic Eggs
Those classic plastic Easter eggs are a genius way to pre-portion treats. Fill ‘em up with dried or dehydrated fruits—we’re big fans of Peeled snacks—or nuts (we like them cocoa dusted, seeds, healthy trailmix, granola, or cocoa nibs. Surprise!
14. Sidewalk Chalk
Whether this Easter basket is for a kiddo or not, sidewalk chalk is undeniably messy—and fun. Egg and chick-shaped chalk are especially ideal, but any’ll do!
15. Jump Rope
Budget-friendly, yet full of potential, the jump rope is a portable fitness must-have. Print a copy of our 10-minute workout to go with it!
16. Lip Balm
Often a go-to stocking stuffer, chapstick and lip balm also make for a great Easter basket filler. EOS lip balm is even shaped like an egg for a timely basket addition. The small spheres come in fun flavors like pomegranate raspberry, honeysuckle honeydew, and lemon drop.
17. Stationary and an Everlasting Pen
There’s a lot to be thankful for when we get to spend time with family on holidays. Pick up some blank stationary or journal, which can help the writer reduce stress or monitor food intake. And for another gift that really keeps on giving for years, invest in a Seven Year Pen; it's an environmentally-friendly miracle utensil—for less than $10.
18. Small Fitness Gear
When the Easter feast and candy have settled, gift your Easter favorite with some small fitness essentials like headbands and athletic socks. And since Spring means more time outdoors, we’re big fans of the Run Lock—a tiny gadget that keeps your car key safely secured to the car door while hiking or running.
19. Gift Cards
For a small-sized basket filler with a lot of opportunity, throw in an iTunes gift card for fitness apps or music to fuel workouts. Other cards, such as Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes allow the basket receiver to feed that coffee craving or pick up a healthy lunch even after Easter has come and gone.
Originally published April 2013. Updated April 2014.
What do you put in your healthier Easter basket? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet us @Greatist.