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  . 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) .
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 withalmond 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 grahamsare 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 list of 19 ideas for a healthier Easter basket, go to Greatist.com.