Valentine’s Day is one of the most exciting holidays at school. Kids get to pass out cute notes and yummy treats to their friends and celebrate their love for one another. When pursuing the aisles this Valentine’s season, you can source better choice treats and gifts to share with your child’s friends.
Stores are always lined with heart-shaped candies that may look appealing, but it’s important to check labels on the things we put on and in our bodies. Many of those adorably festive treats have tons of unnecessary ingredients that can harm our bodies in many different ways. If you’re trying to make better health choices for your family while still joining in on the holiday fun, use this as your guide to more mindful Valentine’s Day school treats. Your kids won’t know the difference, and other classroom parents are sure to thank you!
What to Avoid
When you’re at the grocery store, use the list below as a quick reference on what ingredients to avoid. There are many brands out there that have great options (even some bigger name brands have been coming out with better options!), but reading labels is the best way to make sure you’re getting the healthiest option. Here are a few ingredients I like to avoid when looking at treats:
Artificial dyes have been shown to cause behavioral problems in children, while not improving the nutritional value of the foods they’re consuming. Allergic reactions are also linked to artificial food coloring. Studies done in rats have shown that Red 3 dye clearly poses a cancer risk. Other dyes have been linked to cancer by being contaminated with cancer causing agents. Overall, it’s best to avoid these completely. There are many natural food dyes available these days, and brands are beginning to use them more frequently. Trader Joe’s even has some candy that uses food-sourced dyes (just be sure to also double check the ingredients lists)! Note: Artificial dyes are often labeled as a color and then a number.
Artificial flavors have been linked to stomach problems, allergic reactions, and behavioral issues. They’re created to be less expensive than their natural counterparts, but at the cost of heightened risk of various health problems.
Artificial preservatives have been linked to hypersensitivity, allergies, asthma, hyperactivity, neurological damage, and cancer. These are used in many foods on the shelves to help keep them shelf stable for longer, allowing them to be sold for greater periods of time.
This ingredient is used to create the candy coating on some big brand candies. Its toxicity has been studied but its effects are not well known. It is a possible endocrine disruptor and many scientists have been speaking out against its use in candy for quite some time.
We know that it is recommended that the average person not consume more than 30 added grams of sugar a day. Did you know that a Snickers bar alone contains 20 grams of sugar? Our kids are likely getting way too much sugar on Valentine’s Day. Excess sugar consumption can lead to a myriad of health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.
*A small note I wanted to add here: One candy bar isn’t going to harm your child. One bad ingredient isn’t going to ruin your health journey. However, we are teaching our children (and ourselves) patterns and habits of healthier living that will continue into adulthood. By making healthier choices in general, we are practicing nourishing our bodies the majority of the time and allowing ourselves to be flexible when better choices aren’t available.
My Favorite Store Bought Options
- Smart Sweets contain no added sugars, are colored with plant and vegetable juices, avoid sugar alcohols, and are non-GMO. They also contain fiber to help your kiddo’s body process the sugar that they are ingesting! It’s a win-win.
- Yum Earth makes their sweets with allergy-friendly ingredients for those of you whose kids’ classmates may have allergies. No egg, fish, milk, peanuts, soy, tree-nuts, or wheat are used in their products. Their candies are also free of high fructose corn syrup and are colored using natural, food-based colors.
- Ocho is a certified fair trade chocolate brand with mostly organic ingredients. They don’t use any preservatives or artificial flavors or sweeteners.
- Unreal is an awesome brand because they’re dedicated to reducing sugar in their treats, without adding any of the bad stuff typically associated with reducing sugar. They don’t use anything but sugar, they just use less!
Ditch Added Stuff Altogether
If you’re feeling super ambitious this year, consider taking some homemade treats to your family or neighbors. For some amazing chocolate treats, melt some dark chocolate with coconut oil, and pour over a dollop of peanut butter or almond butter in a mini muffin tin! Store in the fridge until you’re ready to wrap them and send them off with your kids! You can also use my Baking Swap Guide to modify your favorite cookie recipe. Wrap with some cute tissue paper and ribbon and your kids will be thrilled.
Treats aren’t the only way your kids can show love to their classmates. Bubbles, stickers, and small activity books are all some super fun things your kids can bring to class and hand out. Remember, if every kid brings treats, there will be a ton of sugar going into their little bodies. Limit that by sending your kids with toys to share with their pals. Some more ideas:
- Glider airplanes
- Valentine’s Day pencils
- Friendship bracelets
- Sticky hands
- Sticker sheets
- Just Ingredients Lip Balm
- Bouncy balls
Happy Valentine’s Day to you all! I am so thankful for each and every one of you who have joined me through this journey of loving our bodies more by nourishing them with the products we use. Let’s continue this journey with our kids and raise them to love health too.