This Easter season, parents around the world will soon be prepping colorful plastic baskets on behalf of the beloved Easter Bunny. Yet in today’s junk food society, assembling the makings of an Easter basket has become less about getting creative in the name of the Holier Spirit, and more about treating our kids to toxic, unhealthy ingredients and a major sugar high. Experts estimate that even the modest Easter basket has more than 250 grams of sugar-nearly 1,000 calories from sugar alone-and foreign additives such as petroleum dyes and artificial preservatives making these foods to avoid anything but a celebration. Yuck is right.
Here’s a quick snapshot of the foods to avoid in the traditional Easter basket:
1. Marshmallow Peeps
It’s like biting into a cloud of heavenly goodness, but Peeps are anything but sent from heaven. The most popular non-chocolate treat during Easter, Peeps are made with sugar, corn syrup, various food dyes, and gelatin. Artificial dyes and sweeteners have been linked to hyperactivity, behavioral problems in kids, and even cancer, while gelatin is derived from animal by-products such as skin, bones, cartilage, and ligaments. To top it off, there is a little known joke that Peeps are “indestructible,” after scientists discovered they wouldn’t dissolve in anything-including acetone, water, diluted sulfuric acid, and sodium hydroxide. I guess the joke’s on us.
2. Cadbury Creme Egg Candy
Another in-demand Canadian Easter item, Cadbury Creme Eggs are a rich and luxurious treat. But they are also rich in unhealthy ingredients, including artificial flavors, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, artificial dyes, and 20 grams of sugar a pop. Each chocolate egg is also stuffed with butter, milk and milk fat to give it that thick, gooey consistency.
3. Reese’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs
Growing up, it wouldn’t feel like Easter if the Almighty Bunny didn’t slip one of these into my cheap plastic basket. Little did I know that discovering there was no such thing as the Easter Bunny was the least of my concerns. While Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs contain much
of the same junk ingredients as the other candy items in pre-made baskets, the biggest concern is TBHQ, a chemical preservative. A form of butane that is also found in cosmetics, lacquers, and wood varnish, TBHQ has been linked to hyperactivity in children, asthma, rhinitis, and dermatitis.
4. Brach’s Jelly Bird Eggs
Jelly beans fly off the shelves all year long, but sales peak over the Easter holiday. The popular Brach’s brand contains five different artificial colors (Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Red 3), sugar, modified food starch, and confectioner’s glaze. Confectioner’s glaze sounds pretty in theory, but it’s actually another kitschy name for shellac: a candy coating made from the secretions of the female Lac bug. (It’s also an ingredient in nail polish.)
4 HEALTHIER EASTER BASKET ALTERNATIVES
Thankfully, candy lovers and kids don’t have to hop away from the fun entirely. Here are a few ideas and healthier candy treats to indulge in this Easter.
1.Hard boiled organic eggs, naturally dyed: You can pop these in Easter baskets, or get the kids involved by dyeing the eggs as a family. A kid-friendly treat without all the sugar. There are plenty of recipes online or you can purchase all-natural egg dying kits, like the Eco-Eggs Coloring Kit.
2. Natural lip balms: Kids and tweens alike love lip balms. Brands like Crazy Rumors offer fruity lip balm sampler packs made with healthier ingredients, such as jojoba oil, olive oil, shea butter, vitamin E, and pure essential oils. All flavors are vegan and never tested on animals, so you can also teach the kids the importance of being kind to animals. Read our exposé on toxic chemicals in kids’ toys and cosmetic products
3. Art supplies: Spark your child’s creativity with non-toxic and all-natural art supplies, such as colorful chalks, crayons, clays, and paints. Brands like Glob, Eco-Kids, and Stubby Pencil Studio offer art supplies that are free of chemical solvents and fumes to protect children’s health.
4. Healthier candy alternatives: What kind of parents would we be if we fully deprived our kids of candy on such a playful holiday, right? Conscious companies like Surf Sweets offer a wide variety of gluten-free, organic gummies, sour bears and jelly beans. If it’s chocolate you’re after, check out Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups (think Reese’s without the guilt) and Unreal Candy (think healthier versions of Twix and M&Ms).
Image: Andrew McDowell