For parents of school-aged children, January offers a welcome month-long sugar detox after Halloween's candy, Thanksgiving's pie, and Christmas's everything else.
But just as we were starting to feel good about everything, here comes February and Valentine's Day, which means it's time again for another classroom party! The day traditionally set aside for the expression of love has been turned into a celebration of the love of artificial colors, artificial flavors, processed foods, and, of course, sugar.
Valentine's Day is known for its bright heart red and passionate pink colors, but remember that some foods achieve these festive colors without any coloring. And the best part is, these naturally colored foods will provide the body with antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Here are a few ideas to make your Valentine's Day party healthy!
For your student's classroom party consider these easy-to-make treats:
- Heart Sandwiches: Fill the sandwiches with cheese, low-fat cream cheese or nut butter and jelly. Two medium-sized hearts can be cut from two pieces of sliced whole wheat bread.
- A Chocolate-Covered Rainbow: Make your own rainbow of fruit flavors by dipping chopped fruits or vegetables into dark or white melted chocolate. Dip just the very tips of the produce, trying not to cover the entire bite, leaving more fruit or vegetable than chocolate. Use kiwi, pineapple, bananas, cantaloupe, carrots, celery and even thinly sliced red peppers, to name a few.
- Red Buffet of Mother Nature’s Love: Fill a muffin tin or cupcake liner with each of the different red foods and let the kids sample the red buffet! You can include: pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries, red grapes, apples, red pepper slices, watermelon, red pears, blood oranges, strawberries, cherries, raspberries and tomatoes. Each child can also be assigned a special red food to bring in to help disperse the cost of the fresh or frozen produce.
If you are short on time or can only bring in store bought items to your school party consider the following ideas:
- Cupid Dip: Store-bought tomato salsa (made without sugar added) with baked chips or raw vegetables like cauliflower and red peppers for dipping.
- Pink Milk: Strawberry low-fat milk makes a great protein and calcium addition to your party. Look for a brand that uses limited added sugar. Or, make your own strawberry milk by blending strawberries and low-fat milk. Paper straws add a great decoration to the already pink milk. Serve with graham crackers and fresh strawberries.
- Valentine Confetti Popcorn: This confetti will fill their bellies with fiber and antioxidants. Mix together popcorn, dried strawberries, dried cranberries, yogurt covered raisins or pretzels, and mini-chocolate chips. You can buy all of the ingredients separately and the kids can have fun making their own bag of confetti at the confetti bar.
One last tip to keeping your Valentine’s Day school party healthy is to look at the treats that are passed out with card exchange. Many of the traditional cards nowadays are stuck to a piece of candy. If you crunch the numbers, it looks something like this: If each child in a classroom of 20 hands out a lollipop, box of candy hearts or chocolates, each child will exit the school with a bag filled with 1,850 calories and 285 grams of sugar!
In place of the candy-filled cards, consider a healthier sweet treat: Wrap a whole apple, orange, kiwi or pear with an adorable fruit masks which says: "Stay (Naturally) Sweet, Valentine!" The child can sign their name before they wrap the washed fruit. Print free downloadable "fruit masks" from AmericasDietitian.com.
Have a great Valentine’s Day and add healthy and heart-friendly treats by subtracting the all the sugary candy. Their little bodies will thank you.