Healthy Easter basket ideas

With Easter just a few days away, Americans are getting ready to empty their wallets and fill their Easter baskets.

The National Retail Federation expects Americans to spend more than $2 billion on traditional Easter candy this year, with the average person spending $20.35 on candy alone, up almost $2 from last year.

Traditional Easter baskets are filled with chocolate and pastel-colored candy.  Plastic eggs for Easter egg hunts tend to be filled with candy.

So how can keep your children (and yourself!) away from all the sugar and highly processed candy without feeling left out? Start with the Easter egg hunt. Instead of filling plastic eggs with candy, use other kid-friendly, non-edible items such as stickers, temporary tattoos, marbles (if the kids are old enough that you don't fear choking to be a hazard), Play-Doh, glitter, or even spare change for their piggy banks.

Another great option is to paint or dye hard-boiled eggs the day before and use them for the hunt instead of the plastic eggs.

Start a new family tradition by keeping highly processed candy out of the Easter baskets and replacing it with other things your kids will love. Keep treats to a minimum and stick with high-quality ones, such as small squares of dark chocolate, dates stuffed with nut butter, organic fruit leathers or fun containers filled with dried fruits, seeds and nuts.

Choose a theme your child will love and create a basket full of goodies. Personalize it based on your child’s interests and age and they won’t even miss the candy.

Here are some ideas to get you started: A spring garden basket filled with gardening supplies such as gloves, seeds and small shovels. For warmer weather, a pool party theme with a new bathing suit, beach towel, flip-flops, a cover-up, sunscreen and a hat.

Encourage a love for cooking with a chef’s basket featuring a cookbook, apron and all the ingredients to make one of the recipes.  Baseball gear to cheer on their favorite team the summer including a new baseball cap, T-shirt or even tickets to a game. Encourage outdoor play and exercise with a baseball and glove or soccer ball, paddle ball, a kite, bowling set, sidewalk chalk or even a painting kit.

Focus on a light family meal instead of spending hours slaving in the kitchen.  Easter should be about celebrating life, friends and family not on what’s for dinner. A barbecue is a great way to get the whole family involved in meal preparation. Assign everyone a dish to make or a particular job and enjoy each other’s company putting everything together. Take the focus away from heavy desserts by focusing on dishes that the Easter bunny would love: lots of veggies.