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Easter Bunny Should Deliver Vegetables, Not Chocolate


Imagine giving your child an Easter basket filled with Brussels sprouts instead of chocolate Easter eggs. Although the protests would be heard loud and clear, Dr. Nathan Grills, a public health specialist, reports in the Medical Journal of Australia that such a switch would be a healthy move, and that the Easter bunny should act as a healthy childhood role model and deliver vegetables instead of chocolate.

The Easter bunny could be a pin-up bunny

Using the art of satire and an icon of the holiday, Grills emphasizes that the Easter bunny could better serve children everywhere if it were shown to promote and distribute nutritious vegetables and fruits rather than energy-dense, nutritionally poor (EDNP) food such as chocolate.

Although studies have shown that cocoa contains heart-healthy polyphenols, Grills points out that most chocolate Easter eggs contains only a small proportion of cocoa solids while also providing high levels of trans fats and sugar. Eating an excess amount of chocolate, as children are prone to do around Easter, has been linked to cavities and obesity, and obesity is associated with a greater risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, liver disease, and some types of cancer.

Grills, who has previously argued that another icon, Santa Claus, promotes obesity and unhealthy food for children, would like to see a change in the Easter bunny’s role, which for now is to advertise chocolate to children. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that such advertising is a contributing factor in overweight and obesity in children.

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It also seems that the bunny’s impact on chocolate consumption extends beyond childhood. Research shows that adults also tend to over consume chocolate during the holiday. Grills notes that the Easter bunny “promotes high-dose chocolate overindulgence by children at Easter, a habit which then becomes normalized behavior for many adults.”

Grills presents some suggestions on how both parents and the chocolate makers can help to change this behavior, which could be a hard sell. However, Grills points out that since the Easter bunny has potential to do good, “it could become a public health pin-up bunny supporting campaigns that encourage children to eat the recommended daily five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit.”

The author has suggested that parents should become educated about the harmful effects the Easter bunny’s current message has on their children’s health. He also suggests companies not use the Easter bunny as their main marketing consultant to promote unhealthy food to children, and that the bunny’s impact on public health should be more closely watched.

Grills notes that although his article is “bordering on the ridiculous,” it also highlights the fact that the Easter bunny can be exploited to promote unhealthy behaviors, and that giant food and beverage companies take advantage of icons like the Easter bunny to sell their commodities, including unhealthy ones, to children. Many television commercials have cartoon icons that promote sugary, fatty foods to children, for example.

If Grills had his way, children would search for vegetables such as Brussels sprouts on an Easter egg hunt instead of chocolate. After all, he notes, even the Easter bunny “would advocate for this change, given that bunnies do not digest chocolate particularly well.”

Grills NJ. Medical Journal of Australia 2011; 194(8): 410-12