I love few things more than a basket full of colorful Easter eggs. Easter is important to our family and one of our favorite times of year, but I often find myself annoyed with the over-commercialization of what I consider a religious holiday. I also get peeved when Easter gets turned into an excuse to let kids (and ourselves) over-indulge in treats filled with sugars, food dyes, and artificial ingredients.
This year, I’m trying to make our celebration of Easter focused more on the actual reason for the holiday. (Hint: It doesn’t have anything to do with a bunny that brings eggs!)
Easter is a liturgical time of celebration, and one of the biggest feast days in the Church, so I’m glad to let the kids enjoy some treats. I’m opting though to keep some of our favorite traditions with healthy and natural twists.
Let me explain why!
“Natural” Easter Eggs and Easter Baskets … Too Extreme?
I admit, I don’t really understand the Easter tradition of a bunny (they don’t lay eggs) delivering plastic candy-filled eggs and baskets. I think giving our kids heaps of junk food at Easter (and other holidays) sets a precedent that associates celebrations with unhealthy foods. To me, there are better ways to set good food habits for a lifetime.
This may sound extreme to some. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with an occasional indulgence in a food that is less than healthy. But I think most concerned parents would agree that kids these days are getting these indulgences a little too often. From the birthdays of every kid in their class at school, to Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Easter, etc., there are more than enough opportunities for kids to get the message that fun and celebration = unhealthy tasty sweet foods.
(Perhaps that is just a pet peeve of mine though?!)
But let me get off my soap box … on to Easter eggs!
How to Dye Easter Eggs Without Chemicals
Eggs are one of our favorite foods around here, so I certainly don’t have any problems with the eggs themselves. (As you may guess, it is the plastic, candy-filled versions I take issue with.)
It turns out though that the harmless-looking color tablets that you drop into vinegar water to dye Easter eggs contain harmful chemicals that could have an especially bad effect on some kids. True, we don’t eat the shells, but since eggshells are permeable and some kids are so sensitive to the effects of artificial food dyes, I thought it was worth exploring more natural options.
Option 1: Store-bought Egg Dye
To dye Easter eggs naturally the easy way, use a safe natural food coloring and mix according to the following ratios:
- 1 tsp store-bought natural food coloring
- 2 TBSP white vinegar
- 2 TBSP of water
Option 2: Homemade Egg Dye from Beets (and Other Fruits and Vegetables)
If you don’t have natural food coloring around (we often don’t) you can also use random fruits, veggies, and herbs to accomplish the same thing. We tried this a few years ago and will be getting back to it this year.
Below are the foods that can be added to boiling water when cooking eggs to make various colors. You can also juice or boil the ingredients, cool, add vinegar, and use as a regular egg dye:
- Blue Coloring: Add a cup of purple cabbage to the water when boiling the eggs.
- Green Coloring: Add a cup of spinach or a few teaspoons of spirulina to the boiling water. Can also juice greens, mix the juice with vinegar, and use as a cool dye once eggs have already been cooked.
- Red/Pink Coloring: Pomegranate or beet juice added to the boil water. Can also put a couple tablespoons of vinegar in pomegranate or beet juice and use on pre-cooked eggs as a cool dye.
- Purple Coloring: Add grape juice to boil water or soak pre-cooked eggs in grape juice/vinegar mix.
- Yellow/Orange Coloring: Add a few teaspoons of turmeric or saffron to the boil water, or boil these spices in water, cool, and mix with vinegar for a cool dye.
Some notes: These natural variations make pastel-colored eggs which I think are more beautiful than the neon eggs created by the artificial colors. Just a warning though, you won’t be getting any florescent shades with these methods!
Strategies for Easter Egg Hunts
I’ve never been a huge fan of Easter egg hunts and would forgo them completely, but the kids do really look forward to them. Unfortunately, they usually result in a large bag of candy that somehow disappears when my kids are sleeping (maybe the Easter Bunny stole it!)
This year, we’re opting to let the kids participate in the Easter egg hunt at church, but last year, we did a treasure hunt with clues that led to a better prize (seeds for them to plant in their own little corners of the garden).
I prefer the alternatives to this one, but this year, I’m letting the kids participate, eat a couple pieces of the least offending candy, and then trashing the rest after they go to bed.
In the past, we’ve also hidden hard-boiled eggs for them to find (the dogs found the ones that they missed!) or just had a family day outside that involved a lot of other activities.
Healthy Candy-Free Easter Basket Ideas
I don’t have any problem with Easter being a time of joyful celebration and small gifts. As I mentioned before (probably too much!), it’s the plastic, candy-filled parts of this celebration I take issue with. That being said, I love baskets and store everything in them, so our kids get a (reusable) basket each year filled with (non-sugary) goodies.
Here are some ideas we’ve tried over the years that have been a hit!
Grow Your Own Grass
Using wheat, alfalfa, or clover seeds, grow grass in a small dish that will fit in the bottom of your basket. Use this instead of the plastic Easter grass that you are still finding under the couch in September. Kids love the novelty of growing grass indoors, and as a bonus, grass is supposed to be great at cleaning indoor air. You can even plant it outside with the kids after Easter. If you aren’t up for growing your own grass, shred paper in a shredder and use it instead. Recyclable when done!
Instead of a Basket, Give Your Child a Flower Pot
In the pot, put a small pair of gloves, a pack of heirloom seeds and a small shovel and let your child grow his or her own container garden. There are even pre-made totes for this. Herbs are one easy option, and kids can use them in the kitchen! This is guaranteed to provide longer lasting fun than plastic toys and pixie sticks.
Check Out Thrift Stores
We are on a budget, and doing Easter baskets for each kid sure adds up! Check out local thrift stores for some fun gifts for Easter baskets. For instance, one year our kids got a movie, a book, and some shoes each, and I spent less than $10 on all of it.
Adopt a Family Pet
If you are brave, consider a small pet. This reinforces the “new life” focus of Easter and will be a lot more exciting than candy and toys. Just be humane! Only adopt a pet if you plan to keep it and care for it as many baby chickens, ducks, and rabbits are abandoned after Easter.
Give Healthy Foods Instead of Junk
If your kids are looking forward to edible treats, substitute some treats that are healthy and fun. Consider beef jerky, fruit, nuts, or homemade energy bars. Really brave? Make some homemade “peeps” with my probiotic marshmallow recipe.