Chocolates, flowers, greeting cards, fancy dinners…these are the things adults enjoy (or dread) about Valentine’s Day. But what about kids?
Well, my sweet daughter (H) loves making valentines for her family members. We buy some fancy paper and stickers, and she writes a special note for each set of grandparents, her auntie (my sister), and her parents. She usually signs A’s name to her cards (so sweet!). H also likes to exchange store-bought valentines with her classmates.
However, her favorite part of Valentine’s Day is the treats. Chocolate, candy, cookies, and cupcakes will surely be part of her school celebration; her favorite is the heart-shaped cookies with red sprinkles that just about every bakery makes this time of year. But as a parent who tries to limit sugary treats and provide nourishing food, what can I do to mitigate the sugar overload?
Here are a few of my “tricks” for working around the sugar-fest on Valentine’s Day:
- If you want to bring food to your child’s Valentine’s Day celebration, find out the school policy on bringing snacks to classroom parties. Some schools require that all snacks be store-bought in order to ensure that there is no risk of contamination from an unsanitary home kitchen. Other schools may allow homemade treats. Learn your kid’s school’s policy and work within its parameters.
- If you can bring homemade treats, make something that your child loves (maybe even with his/her help), but that is healthy and will be acceptable to other kids. Some ideas include low-sugar cookies, almond butter or coconut cups, mini fruit-sweetened muffins or banana bread, or some other sweet treat that has some nutrition (protein and/or fat especially) to go with it. See the recipe round-up below for more ideas.
- If you can only bring store-bought treats, choose items that are sugar-free or low in sugar, high in protein and healthy fats, or have abundant vitamins and minerals. Ideas include 100% fruit leathers, fresh fruit (washed and precut), vegetable or fruit chips, dried fruit (are you seeing a pattern here?), additive-free popcorn, seaweed snacks (you’d be surprised how many kids like these), trail mix, nut clusters, or cheese sticks.
- You can avoid the food treats altogether and provide a non-food treat for the kids. Great (and inexpensive) ideas that both boys and girls will enjoy include stickers, pencils, fun erasers, bouncy balls, finger puppets, balloons, crafts, etc. If you have older kids, ask them what their peers would enjoy and involve them in choosing what to bring.
I know that H will eat whatever she likes from what her classmates bring to the party, so I don’t worry too much about it. I let her enjoy the special treats because that is what they are: treats that she gets once in a blue moon, not daily or even weekly. We have regular conversations about “sometimes foods” and why we only eat them sometimes. She understands that foods with lots of sugar and zero nutrition are not good for her, but they are fun and tasty to enjoy on occasion. And unless she feels sick afterward, I don’t really make a big deal about it. If that does happen, I just remind her that eating too much sugar or wheat or processed food-like substances will not help her be healthy or grow big and strong. And then I load her up with all sorts of nourishing food and let her body clear itself out.
Valentine’s Day is a fun holiday for kids, but they can celebrate love and friendship without it having to revolve around food. I choose to contribute either a healthy snack or a non-food item to H’s school parties, but you will need to decide what works best for your family. I wish you and your family a lovely Valentine’s Day filled with love, happiness, and health.
Here are some recipes that are healthier versions of “typical” Valentine’s Day treats. Most of them do have some kind of sweetener, but they are much lower in sugar and much higher in overall nutrition than conventional treats. Kid-tested and approved, too!
- My Fruity Nutty Chocolate Valentine–I love this recipe for its simplicity and deliciousness, and the fact that you can choose a trail mix that your kids will enjoy. Make sure to use dark chocolate, though!
- Chocolate Almond Butter Cups–chocolatey, but not overly sweet, in a kid-size bite.
- Coconut Klondike Bites–my personal favorite! So yummy and coconutty.
- Cinnamon Coconut Butter Truffles–melt-in-your-mouth goodness and completely sugar/sweetener-free. My kids love these, but they are not very sweet.
- Primal Chocolate Chip Cookies–these are a high protein cookie and I love that they don’t have eggs (one of the few cookie recipes that A can enjoy).
- Paleo Banana Bread–this is my favorite grain-free banana bread, and I’ll bet it would work as mini muffins as well (you would need to adjust the baking time).