Every February, Valentine’s Day delivers a delightful opportunity to break up a dreary, gray mid-winter to spend a day focused on gratitude for our loved ones. But along with the hearts, flowers and cupids, this annual celebration of love can bring an overindulgence of sugar akin to Halloween 2.
This can certainly put a dent in your family’s New Year Healthy Eating repertoire. But with a bit of planning, you can pull off a festive and sweet, love-filled holiday that won’t spike your kids blood sugar and send them off the rails while they are stuck at home in a pandemic.
Eating habits set in early childhood can provide a clear path to health or it can lead to unsavory outcomes like obesity, sugar addiction, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and even early onset type 2 diabetes. Most children consume enough calories, but they can fall short on meeting their nutrient needs for key vitamins and minerals that nourish cells and build strong immune systems. The silver lining in our pandemic world is our kids are eating at home more, and that gives parents a big opportunity to influence their growing palates. Even some sweets can become more healthful with just a few modifications. Like substituting homemade chocolate for the store-bought, sugary kind by melting cocoa butter and raw cacao powder with agave or plant-based sweeteners like stevia or monkfruit. It boasts a dose of vitamin E, phytonutrients from plants and is a good source of healthy fats that help make the good cholesterol. Get your kids in on the act of melting the ingredients together and adding in the natural, plant-based sweeteners. Simple pleasures like having your children dip fresh strawberries in chocolate might just be simple enough to satiate even the sweetest of sweet tooths!
Raw and vegan treats have sure come a long way on the taste scale and are often made with ingredients high in healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, and without unrefined flours or other ingredients that spike blood sugar and send your kids into a sugar frenzy. Best, they taste delightful and are generally easy to make with just a few ingredients.
Minimalist Baker is a great resource for plant-based sweet treats made with 10 ingredients or less. I can’t get enough of their 10-minute chocolate truffles, which can be made in less than 30 minutes.
Another favorite in our house are these vegan Butterfinger Candy Bars made with only 6 ingredients. Brandi Doman has carefully curated a recipe that is a whole food, dairy-free and oil-free healthy version than rivals the original yellow brick with chocolate you often find uneaten at the end of the Halloween candy bucket.
Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be complete without a moist and tasty red velvet cake or cupcakes topped with a smooth and buttery cream cheese frosting. I’m not going to lie, Sam Turnbull’s version from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken is a staple at birthdays in our house, albeit a bit more indulgent with a higher sugar content in the recipe (above 25 grams if using white sugar). I like to substitute a 1:1 mix of monkfruit and brown coconut sugar to keep the refined sugar spike factor low.
Whatever treats you serve up this Valentine’s Day, enjoy them lovingly with the wee people in your life. The hugs and sweet treats might be just what we all need to bring smiles out of hibernation this winter!
Do you have healthy Valentine’s Day treats that you make regularly in your house? Let us know in the comments below.
Julie O’Connor is a holistic nutritionist, writer and health/wellness coach based in Portland, Oregon who specializes in supporting people who are experiencing digestive distress, anxiety, fatigue and brain fog to optimize their health and/or repair their relationship to food. After over two decades in the computer hardware and corporate venture capital industry, she was inspired by her own well-being challenges to return to her behavioral science roots and pursue graduate study in clinical nutrition. Julie grew up in Kentucky eating processed and fast food but now is a self-described seasonal foodie who enjoys recipe development and writing for publications, other practitioners and medical doctors. Her mission is simply to help make amazing transformations possible. You can check out her website here!