Healthy Valentine’s Treats: 18 Fresh Food Ideas for an All-Natural School Party
|January 31, 2013||Posted by Stacy under Classroom treats, School parties|
Just when your family had started to recover from the holiday sugar binge: Along comes Valentine’s Day to provide yet another excuse for a class party laden with candy, cupcakes and other sweets. I don’t know about you, but I am not too excited about the idea of my kids downing 10 pounds of sugar and who knows what kind of artificial ingredients. I’m all for an occasional treat (preferably at home), but the last thing they need is another over-the-top junk fest.
Valentine’s Day is an anniversary of sorts for me. It was this time last year that I finally freaked about all the empty-calorie treats being fed to my son (a kindergartner at the time) at school. My frustration had been building for a while, but the week of February 14 put me over the edge. It wasn’t just the sweets served in class on V Day itself. It was all the candy that came attached to his Valentines. The cupcakes and gummy bears to honor his classmate’s birthday two days later. And the ice cream at the school’s annual 100 Days of School celebration two days after that.
“It was a special week,” my son’s teacher explained after I emailed her about the mountain of sugar that had been consumed over the span of five days. She was right: Valentine’s week was exceptionally bad, unlike anything we had seen so far that year. But the truth was, unhealthy food had been making regular appearances in the classroom all fall and winter—at least once a week, by my estimate. It was too much. And I felt that it was undermining my efforts to teach my kids how to eat.
As those of you have been following my blog know, I acted on my frustration. I asked to start a wellness committee (and help start one I did!). And while things are far from perfect, I have noticed some positive changes this school year, including a push for healthier food at classroom parties. My son’s new fitness-minded teacher only permits one group birthday party a month and has specifically requested parents stick to nutritious snacks. It’s been much better, without a doubt. But what will happen during Valentine’s week is still up in the air.
That’s where this list comes in. The head of our new Wellness Committee asked me to provide some healthy Valentine’s Day food ideas to share with teachers and parents. Because it seems a lot of families want to be healthier but may default to junk food out of lack of better ideas. I’m a firm believer that kids will get excited about a spread of healthy nibbles if they taste yummy and look special. So with no further ado…The List:
Heart melon pop* I did a variation on this idea at Christmas using kiwi. This time, I took a mini heart-shaped cookie cutter and carefully cut out pieces of cantaloupe. While I’ve struggled to make shapes out of watermelon in the past, the cantaloupe held up well. For color, you could try making heart shapes out of other fruits like honeydew, kiwi and pineapple. Flower shapes made into a Valentine’s bouquet would be cute, too!
Heart-shaped brownie bites Oh, how my 4-year-old twins and I love these faux brownies, made with raw almonds, unsweetened cacao powder, dates, and a tablespoon of honey. Instead of rolling them into little balls like I normally do, I took about a third of the “dough” and made a big ball, then flattened it out with my hand until it was about 1/2– to 3/4-inch thick. Next, I used a mini heart cookie cutter to make shapes. If your child goes to a nut-free school, you can substitute half a cup of sunflower seeds plus half a cup of hemp seeds for the almonds (I added an extra tablespoon of honey when I did this because the almonds felt were naturally sweeter–but judge for yourself!).
Healthy banana split* A healthy twist on a favorite kids’ dessert–I subbed Greek yogurt (I used plain, but you could try vanilla to make it sweeter), heart-shaped strawberries and dark chocolate shavings for ice cream, chocolate sauce and a maraschino cherry. To make the shavings, I used a chocolate bar and a carrot peeler. This would make a perfect item for a breakfast party or at any time of day. You can do a make-your-own version: Slice the bananas for the kids, then provide the toppings in bowls. For extra toppings, try slivered almonds, granola or natural pink sprinkles.
Be-still-my-beating-heart sandwich* Organic unsweetened SunButter and red raspberry preserves on locally made honey wheat bread–YUM!
Sweet potato-cheddar crackers Move over, Goldfish: These little guys taste just as good but are better for you. I cut the recipe in half and still had enough dough to make 108 crackers. One warning: Not long after taking the crackers out of the oven, they got soft (even though I transferred them to a wire rack immediately after cooking). My kids still loved them, but they were more bready than crackery. And cute as can be!
Angel food and fruit kabob* For this, I used store-bought angel food cake (no artificial ingredients) and alternated chunks of cake with heart-shaped strawberries and blackberries on long skewers.
Chocolate zucchini mini “cupcakes” Made with whole wheat flour and shredded zucchini, these are much less sinful than traditional frosted cupcakes but plenty sweet enough to please the kids. I put mine in mini muffin liners adorned with pink and red hearts. Add a Valentine’s cupcake topper to further up the appeal.
Valentine’s fruit cup* To make this one, I just put a little fruit (including a heart-shaped strawberry) in a mini cupcake wrapper. Fun and easy!
Love potion smoothie* Put a fruit smoothie in a colorful up, add a whimsical straw, and what do you get? A special love potion! I made this smoothie with fresh strawberries, mangoes, carrot juice, plain Greek yogurt and a little ice. For a pinker color, try this Pink Smoothie from Bake Your Day or the Berry-Banana Smoothie from Two Peas and Their Pod. Silly Straws Kit (makes 6) purchased at Target.
Popcorn party favor* Homemade microwave popcorn becomes a fun treat when placed in a food-safe Valentine favor bag (I got this one–made by American Crafts and sold in a pack of 6–at Target). I wanted to figure out a way to dye the popcorn pink using beet juice but didn’t get a chance. Next time!
Plus.…a few more festive ideas from around the web:
*All starred items can be done with store-bought food for those who have a store-bought-only food policy. Items could be transported to school in sealed packages and then assembled immediately before the party.
Valentine Card Ideas
I don’t know when it became the norm to attach candy to Valentine’s Day cards. Last year, I was shocked by the amount of sugar that came home with my then kindergartner (and my then 3-year-old twins at preschool). It felt like Halloween all over again! My kids get excited just to receive a simple card and wouldn’t even notice the absence of candy. If your child wants to send in something extra in addition to a card, here are some non-sugary options:
- Fun sticker
- Fake tatoo
- Small bag of popcorn
- Lip balm
- Pencil or pen
- Party favor