For Easter we do non-food treats in plastic eggs and also decorate hard boiled eggs. The Easter Bunny will not be bringing any candy. On Valentines Day I got each of my three kids a balloon and tied a hand-made card with a "Valentiney" poem copied inside - no chocolate, and they did not miss it. I bring fruit kabobs rather than cupcakes for b-day parties at school - all the kids love them!
Based on my own experience I would recommend trying to eliminate as much sugar as possible and not rationalizing it away ("just this once", "well, it’s a special occasion", etc.). If you stop to really think about it, between all the holidays and b-day parties both at home and at school, kids these days get A LOT of sugar. And the sugar is often wrapped up in a package of processed flour and trans fat...
I'm also not so sure that all kids that are restricted alawys binge when parents are not around. I found my kids did do this at first, but I realized I was restricting w/o enough education. I explained in detail to my kids why I think sugar is unhealthy and why I don't eat it much. I also set up an incentive system to encourage them to refuse cupcakes and such at school.
If my kids do go crazy with sugar once they have more independence, I still feel my restrictions will have accomplished a few things:
1) I've kept their growing bodies healthy a little longer: this is my job as a mom, and I need to do this to the best of my ability while they live under my roof and are dependent on me.
2) Their taste buds adjust, so if they do stray they'll need less to satisfy: when I started restricting sugar my kids needed lots of honey on plain yogurt, now they love it plain-even w/o fruit. They love 85% dark chocolate (even my 4 yo) and reject things their friends eat as "too sweet". My middle child now even passes on ripe pears or bananas as they taste too sweet to him... and he opted for a Greek yogurt "sundae bar" (coconut, berries, chopped macedamia nuts and chopped 85% choc for toppings...) for the desert at his recent birthday party even though I offered to bake a cake if that's what he really wanted.
3) I've given them a foundation which will inform future decisions: I have heard stories about sugar-restricted kids going overboard when they get older, but I've also heard stories of rebelious sugar binging teens who reform once they feel/see the effects of deviating from the healthy fare they got when younger.
I think we can really do our children a service by teaching them that every holiday get- together (or let's be honest, every celebration, sporting event, casual dinner party, playdate, etc...) need not be punctuated by sugary treats.