3 Ideas for a Healthier Easter Basket

Jelly beans, crème-filled chocolate eggs …. Easter is another one of those holidays that has become sugar-saturated. But, also like the others, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are healthier items to put in your child’s Easter basket. Here are three ideas.

Toy Eggs

Girl collecting Easter eggs
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These can be of many different colors. Look for the ones that are hollow and can be opened. Inside, you can place small toys (not recommended for small children, of course), stickers, erasers and the like.

Nuts

Assortment of nuts in walnut shell
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For those without nut allergies, nuts like cashews, pecans, almonds and pistachios can be a delicious source of healthy fat and fiber.

Large clinical studies have found that adding tree nuts to a Mediterranean-style diet can prevent heart disease. Several different kinds of nuts have been found to have heart-healthy properties: almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts and pistachios are just a few.

In addition to good fats, nuts contain fiber and plant-based protein, which are also important for your and your child’s diet. And don’t forget about nut butters, which are another delicious way to enjoy the health benefits of nuts.

Fruit

Apple, orange and banana
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Whole fruits and vegetables (with emphasis on “whole”—we are not talking about apple pie here) contain loads of fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients that our bodies need. Studies have shown that, due to many of these nutritious properties, eating whole fruits and vegetables can even reduce inflammation within the body. Fruit and vegetable intake has also been shown to improve the function of blood vessels (known as endothelial function).

Fruit and vegetable intake is not just a trivial matter; in fact, it is essential for life. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 1.7 million, or 2.8%, of deaths worldwide can be attributed to consuming too few fruits and vegetables!

Additionally, fruits and vegetables constitute low-calorie foods. A report by the WHO has stated that there is convincing evidence that eating fruits and vegetables decreases the risk for obesity. Compared to high-calorie foods such as processed foods that are high in sugar and fat, fruits and vegetables are less likely to contribute to obesity or overweight. And, because they contain higher amounts of dietary fiber and other nutrients, they are associated with a lower risk for diabetes and insulin resistance. For the same reasons, they also make people feel full with fewer calories, thus helping to prevent weight gain.

Many U.S. national guidelines recommend eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. However, a large study conducted by researchers in the United Kingdom recently led investigators to recommend at least seven servings every day.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that, to maintain healthfulness and nutrition, a serving of fruit or vegetable should be unsweetened (no added sugars), low in sodium, and 100% juice if a fruit juice.

Adding a whole fruit such as an apple, banana or clementine to your child’s Easter basket is a simple task that can help keep the holiday healthy in many ways. Other whole-fruit ideas include raisins, cherries, and berries (like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and others), which are full of nutrients and antioxidants.

Sources

de Lorgeril M, Salen P, Martin JL, et al. Mediterranean diet, traditional risk factors, and the rate of cardiovascular complications after myocardial infarction: final report of the Lyon Diet Heart Study. Circulation 1999;99:779-785.

Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvadó J, et al. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. N Engl J Med 2013;368:1279-1290.

Bao Y, Han J, Hu, FB, et al. Association of nut consumption with total and cause-specific mortality. N Engl J Med 2013;369:2001-2011.

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