Nutritionist suggests alternatives to Easter candy

Richard Bogren, Reames, Elizabeth S.

News Release Distributed 03/25/10

Easter is second to Halloween as the most important candy-eating occasion of the year. A 2009 Nielsen survey reported that consumers were expected to buy more than 120 million pounds of candy in the week leading up to Easter.

According to the report, nearly 71 million pounds of chocolate candy are sold during the week leading up to Easter, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. By comparison, nearly 48 million pounds of chocolate candy are sold during Valentine’s week, and nearly 90 million pounds are sold during Halloween week.

“For Easter this year, think beyond the usual sweet treats,” Reames says.

In addition to stuffed Easter bunnies and plastic eggs, she suggests giving small, child-safe toys, stickers, whistles, pencils, plastic rings, coupons to food establishments or small coins.

“Kids also enjoy scented pencils, jewelry, clothing, DVDs and games,” she says.

Reames says offering non-food treats is a healthy practice for children and those providing the treats as well.

“Having candy left over can be a temptation for adults while non-food treats can be stored for the next holiday,” she says.

Reames cites a study that has shown that children ages 3 to 14 enjoy non-food treats and often are just as likely to choose toys as candy when given the opportunity to choose between them. There were no gender differences.

“Sweets are discretionary calories and are not essential for a healthy diet,” the nutritionist says. “The flavor and fun of Easter candy and sweets can be enjoyed in moderation as an addition to the daily meal plan.”

Reames suggests non-sweet food treats that include Easter eggs, whole fresh fruit, cheese-and-cracker packages, sugar-free gum, cheese sticks, juice boxes, small packages of nuts or raisins, and coupons good at local food establishments.

“Some foods, such as nuts and seeds and round or hard candy, are not appropriate for small children because they may cause choking,” she says.

Reames offers additional ideas to help celebrate the holiday healthfully:

– Plan nutritious snacks. Cut bread in bunny or egg shapes, add lean meat, chicken or turkey and serve with a glass of skim or low-fat milk and sliced, fresh fruit.

– Buy candy at the last minute to avoid tempting yourself and other family members. Buy less than you think you need.

– Take an Easter egg hike. Hide plastic Easter eggs along a trail and invite the family and friends to find the eggs while enjoying the walk.

– Encourage children to pick a favorite treat or two and provide a glass of skim or low-fat milk to go along with them.

– Help youngsters remember to brush their teeth or at least rinse their mouths thoroughly with water after eating sweets and other carbohydrate foods. This will help prevent tooth decay.

Additional information about nutritious foods is available from the LSU AgCenter office in your parish.

Rick Bogren

1/4/2011 1:07:29 AM
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