Options For a Healthier Valentine’s Day Celebration

Valentines Day healthy snacks
Be creative and keep an eye on healthy food even for celebrations usually steeped in sugary foods. Photo by Daniel Friedman

With January’s virtuous salad eating days behind us, February’s candy-coated glitter and lace have descended upon us. The threat is everywhere. The drive-thru pharmacy window is now a necessity, lest you enter the store and leave with three samplers of waxy chocolate the size of your head.

Walking across the office means grabbing a handful of conversation hearts off of your co-workers desk. Four times a day. I know when “UR CUTE” is winking up at you from that bowl it seems irresistible, but keep walking. Underneath the empty flattery lies a chalky clove flavor that you will only regret falling for. Resist the temptation.

And then the sign-ups for your kids’ class parties get sent home. No longer is it enough to get the latest Disney-themed valentines, have your kid scrawl his name on them, shove them in his backpack and leave the rest up to him. Now you need a shoebox, three empty paper towel rolls, a two liter bottle, three thimbles, and seven zip-ties so your daughter can create a mailbox for the gender neutral, age appropriate Valentines. Oh, and please send along two dozen treats that take four different food allergies into consideration.

Luckily for you, the school’s “pre-packaged food only” policy means no one expects you to whip up some adorable homemade cupcakes. Grocery store bakery, here you come. Four dozen frosted sugar cookies between both of your kids’ classes? What’s the harm in throwing another dozen into the grocery cart for the family? How much damage can those “two-bite” brownies actually cause? (Answer: A lot when you mindlessly end up eating half of the package while adding healthy dinner ideas to your Pinterest board.)

Fortunately, there are better options. Not only are they good options for the kids, but you’ll feel better about yourself when you don’t have to eat the leftover lollipops to prevent the kids from getting their hands on them.

Here are some healthy swaps to think about this Valentine’s Day:
  • Clementines (mandarin oranges also known as “cuties”) are in season, and I have yet to find a kid who doesn’t appreciate their easy-to-peel, juicy sweetness. (Cute sayings to go with it: “Orange you a cutie!” “Happy Valentine’s Day cutie!”). 
  • Apples are another kid-friendly fruit. Add a little interest by purchasing different varieties of apple. Pre-sliced bags of apples are a pricier option. Find some “apple of my eye” valentines.
  • Strawberries. It’s not peak strawberry season, but grocery stores tend to put them on special this time of year to dip in chocolate. Skip the chocolate and set out lightly sweetened yogurt instead. (Cute sayings to go with it: “I love you berry much.” “I’m berry glad we are friends.” “Have the berry best Valentine’s Day!”) 
  • Bananas. You can write fun messages in the peel with a toothpick. Simply etch into the peel as if you were writing with a pen. It’s hard to see at first, but the writing will darken over a few hours. Or use a ball-point pen, but not a marker as they penetrate the surface more. (Cute sayings to go with it: “I’m bananas about you.” “You are very a-peeling”) 
  • String cheese/cheese sticks. Many brands feature licensed characters smaller kids may get excited about. (Cute sayings to go with it: “Just another ‘cheesy’ Valentine!” “Call me ‘cheesy’ but I think you’re awesome!”) 
  • Vegetable trays. Purchase a whole tray for class parties or small bags of carrots for individual gifts. Hummus is a higher protein option than ranch dressing.
  • Granola bars—with a warning. Check the label for added sugar. Avoid chocolate dips, drizzles and chips. If your child’s classroom/school is nut free, skip these.
  • Cups or pouches of unsweetened fruit sauce or fruit cocktail in juice
  • Small bags of whole grain crackers or pretzels.
  • Baked tortilla chips and salsa. (Cute sayings to go with it: “You are the chips to my salsa.” “We go together like chips and salsa.” “You’re all that and a bag of chips.”) 
  • Whole grain bagels and reduced fat cream cheese
  • Low salt/fat popcorn (Cute sayings to go with it: “Poppin in to say… Happy Valentine’s Day!”, “You make my heart POP!”) 

A couple minutes of a Pinterest search, and you’ll find all sorts of “puns” and cute gift tags to make these Valentine’s Day treats a little extra special, while resting assured that they are healthy options, too!