In the weeks before Easter, we’re assailed with special deals and reminders to buy candy for the holiday. But what can parents do if they want something healthier for their kids – something that’s still fun? We asked Dr. Keith Kantor, a leading nutritionist and author of The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice, for some advice on how to start healthy Easter traditions kids will really like.
Channel Kids’ Attention
Parents may think they need to divert their children’s attention from candy ads and shoo them away from the candy aisle in the grocery store, but Dr. Kantor says it’s not about diverting, it’s more about channeling. “You just have to channel it in the right way,” he says. “They will see all those advertisements for Cadbury and so on, but what kids enjoy as much as candy is quality time with their parents. Instead of telling them what they can’t have, which nobody likes to hear, tell them what they can have and let them help you make it.”
Dr. Kantor has some recommendations for the types of things parents and kids can make together. “Make homemade treats like healthy Easter breads, some muffins or candies, or even raw vegetables that you shape like a bunny so it’s fun. This way they still get a treat and they get to spend quality time with you. It’s easy to divert the direction of their attention and they still get what they want.”
Create New Easter Traditions
Ditching the traditional Easter basket filled with chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chickens, jelly beans and assorted sugary candies can be tough, but it’s doable.
“Instead, how about filling the baskets with things kids also like – little rings that are shaped like a snake or spider, or a small jump rope, or movie passes, or tattoos and bubbles and stickers or little painting and jewelry sets – they just want a prize or a present. I don’t think they care that much that they can eat it. Or put in healthier treats.”
In general, Dr. Kantor observes, kids like to spend time with their parents, especially when they’re younger. That’s also one of parents’ biggest obstacles, finding the time to spend with their children.
“Do things like a scavenger hunt where the children find different things like toys of a smaller nature that they would like, or healthier treats – and they’re also burning calories and getting activities in,” Dr. Kantor says. “Play a marathon game of Monopoly or hopscotch. There are so many different things you can do that are fun and make it a family event instead of just gorging ourselves on fattening food that has all of the processed chemicals in it.”
Why Sugar Is Bad For Kids
What’s so bad about sugary candy for kids? Here Dr. Kantor is unequivocal. “What happens when you have sugary candy is you get a spike in your sugar level. Your sugar level and your insulin level shoot up and then as soon as it wears off and we burn up those calories it crashes down. You get highs and lows which changes the mood, which is very bad for children, especially in school. At one point they’re hyperactive and at the next point they’re sleeping in class. You want to avoid the sugary highs and lows as much as possible.”
Research also ties too much sugar and simple carbohydrates to obesity and type 2 diabetes.
In particular, Dr. Kantor recommends avoiding anything with refined sugars, like high-fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils, which are also called trans-fats, and anything that contains dyes. If you want to dye Easter eggs, there are natural dyes available in the natural food aisle.
Healthy Candy Substitutes
When asked what he considers a healthy Easter treat for kids, Dr. Kantor has some wise advice for parents. “Kids like chocolate,” he admits. “If you want to use any chocolate, use dark instead of the cream-filled chocolate or milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is healthier for you. You can make something that starts with the dark chocolate and has coconut oil in it and nut flower and raw shredded coconut, to name a few things. So you can definitely make it healthier for them.”
Other options Dr. Kantor likes for kids are vegan and almond butter Easter candies. “Kids love them and it’s also good for those who suffer from peanut allergies,” he says. “There’s also organic fruit snacks, a great alternative to the sugary jelly beans which seem to be part of Easter.”
Dr. Kantor offers kid-friendly information, complete with coloring and spelling, in his free app, Green Box Heroes, available in the Apple iStore, Amazon and Google Play.
“My concept overall is if they can see it, hear it, color it and spell it, maybe they can remember that an apple is healthier than a cupcake and why,” says Dr. Kantor.