THE BLOG
04/29/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Lighten Up Your Easter Baskets

In 2000, Americans bought $1.9 billion of Easter candy and consumed 7.1 billion pounds. Hmmmmmm. Let's do the math. Conservatively that's almost 18 trillion calories. Yikes! And much of it boils down to ...Chocolate.

What most women think of as it's own food group, many medical experts once believed to be a coronary nightmare. Today, however, the medical community now says that eating a small bar of dark chocolate every day can be good for you! The flavonoids found in dark chocolate bars with a high cocoa content may actually be beneficial to our cardiac health. Here's how it works. Flavonoids are a group of plant-based compounds which keep cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels, reduce the risk of blood clots, and slow down the immune responses that lead to clogged arteries. Way to go Willie Wonka!

But let me be quick to point out that while a 3.5 oz piece can have it's benefits, chocolate is also loaded in calories and saturated fat and should be eaten in moderation. Flavonoids do not alter the fact that chocolate can increase our girth and thus our risk of heart disease. Sigh! A balanced diet and plenty of exercise is still the key to a healthy heart. Sorry guys, that's my job.

And remember, not all Easter candy is created equal. So this Easter, if you're looking to give a basket of goodies that's a little lighter on the hips, here's my favorite candy picks:

KIM'S LIGHT EASTER BASKET PICKS:
Before I begin, please remember that this is a candy filled Easter basket with lower calorie candy alternatives ... not suggestions for healthy eating.

10. Popcorn Ball Eggs
You can't beat these high fiber treats, now egg shaped for Easter. Only 100 cal, 1g fat,
2g fiber, they just hit over the 1 point mark. Do what I do -- let your kids have the first bite and count the rest for a point!
9. Sugar Free Jelly Belly Jelly Beans
They now come in gift boxes as well as the 3 oz bags. Only 80 calories, 0g fat, 8g fiber per serving = 1 point.
8. Sugar Free Peeps
Each pack of 3 peeps is only 60 calories, 0g fat = 1 point
7. Dark Chocolate Dipped Altoids Suck away on these little yummies. They're only 7 calories each and freshen your breath at the same time. Whoo Hoo!
6. Ring Pops
They may make fingers sticky, but they're the slowest 60 calories your kids will eat. And they're shaped as chicks and bunnies for Easter!
5. 100 Calorie Snack Packs
This year these great portion controlled sweets include chocolate treats like M&Ms and Three Musketeers. Make sure you only put each one inside an egg. Make 'em work for it!
4. Fun Dip
I realize these are pure sugar, but they're also only 50 calories, 0g fat and they take a long time to eat. Do what I do, make you're kiddos eat them outside. Your carpets will appreciate it and guaranteed your children will end up in some outdoor activity when they're done.
3. Hershey's Sticks
When you want a chocolate fix, this is it! Only 60 calories and 3g fat per stick AND it comes in three flavors. What more could you ask?!
2. Toys!
There are lots of toys you can put in a basket to fill it up, but with Spring in the air, consider sports and active toys such as balls, jump ropes and skates.
1. CASH!
Perfect for kids of all ages. Break open your piggy banks, moms and dads. This is a fat free treat!

Oh. Don't forget the Easter activity points... one of the best things you can do is to join the egg hunt with the kids. A 170 pound woman will burn approximately 116 calories in 30 minutes of Easter egg hiding, and another 154 calories in 30 minutes of egg hunting.

So keep it active, keep it light this Easter. Enjoy!