Spring, sun, warm weather, Easter, eggs and…….. A LOT OF CANDY! I am sure you feel just as frustrated as I am right now at all the sugar overload happening during holidays and in between. And after the new report on sugar toxicity came out, many of us are becoming extra diligent at portioning out sweets and treats. But are we ready to handle another stressful responsibility and pick up another fight with our kids?

In the meanwhile, kids ages 2 to 3 years eat and drink on average about 14 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Older children ages 4 to 5 can easily jam in about 17 teaspoons.  And as if sugar is not bad enough by itself, its increased consumption has also been associated with a decrease in the intake of nutrients and important food groups.  And it is not getting any better as children grow up: children ages 6-11 can chomp through about 17 teaspoons of added sugar a day and by the time they are between 12 and 18 years old, they bring it up to the whopping 25 teaspoons a day!

I know that some concerned parents just throw away all the candy right after the holidays and it works beautifully when the kids are smaller and the memories are shorter. The older ones tend to fight for their rights. The good part is that from age 2.5 – 3 they are ready for a lesson on balanced eating habits and you are better off using this opportunity to teach them one.

Here are the 5 steps to reduce sugar overload this Easter:

  1.  Assign a special place in your kitchen for all the candy that your kids get at birthday parties, Halloween, Christmas, Easter events etc.
  2. Establish a new family rule that all the candy goes into that special place straight from the goody bags or Easter baskets.
  3. I would also recommend going through the sweets together with your children and throwing out the worst ones –with neon colors and damaged packaging, while explaining why they are worse than others.
  4. Talk to your kids and decide TOGETHER how many pieces they will eat per day and when they will eat them.  For example, one piece after lunch and one piece after dinner.
  5. Help the kids stick to the decision and enjoy the candy at the agreed times and in the agreed amounts without feeling deprived.

Here are some “candy-free” activities and snacks that can help you survive the spring break and endless egg hunts:

  • Make sure your little ones had a nutritious meal before heading to a party where treats will be served.
  • Use Easter stickers, erasers and tattoos in some eggs instead of candy.
  • Grow herbs in egg shells instead of baking another batch of cookies. It is a cool project kids of all ages like. Here are the detailed instructions.
  • Do a small “no-cooking” culinary project with kids – these potted carrots and dip are so cute!
  • Use frozen fruits and berries for a snack or dessert. My 3 year old does not like fresh blueberry but can gobble down a pound of frozen berries.
  • Make nutritious and low-sugar“ fruit ice cream” with fresh or frozen fruit and some vanilla ice cream blended together. Our favorite recipe is 1 mango, 1/2 cup ice and ¼ cup of vanilla ice cream – serves 2-4.

How do you deal with Easter candy overload in your house?

Sibylle Kranz, Helen Smiciklas-Wright, Anna Maria Siega-Riz, Diane Mitchell. Adverse effect of high added sugar consumption on dietary intake in American preschoolers. The Journal of Pediatrics, Volume 146, Issue 1, Pages 105-111

Nicklas TA, O’Neil CE, Liu Y. Intake of added sugars is not associated with weight measures in children 6 to 18 years: National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 2003-2006. Nutr Res. 2011 May;31(5):338-46.