Like Halloween, Easter and Christmas, sugar overload can be a problem on Valentine’s Day. Many schools host activities focused around sweets and your child may come home with bag of toxic candy. For kids who react badly to sugar, chocolate, or dyes, and for those who need to avoid it in their diet, this can mean trouble. Is there a way to avoid all this candy?
If you are willing to take charge and get involved, you can help your child avoid candy overload this holiday.
Top 5 Strategies for a Candy Free Valentine’s Day
1. Coordinate the classroom party
My kids go to a school that has a lot of food events. These are great for community building, but challenging for our kids and their food sensitivities. If your child’s class is throwing a Valentine’s Day event with food and treats, offer to be the coordinator or volunteer to help out, if possible. As the coordinator, request healthy treats from parents or manage the food on your own. For example, you can set up fresh fruit with a chocolate fountain or fondue for dipping, so that the kids are getting some healthy foods with their treats. If you can’t be the coordinator, volunteer to help out so that you can oversee how many treats your child gets. If you cannot volunteer, speak with the teacher about your concerns and brainstorm healthy, fun food options together. For example, she might be open to teaching the kids about the importance of healthy snacks and sharing those rather than traditional candy.
2. Encourage candy-free Valentine’s gifts
If your child’s class is exchanging Valentine’s, speak to your child’s teacher to see if she can request parents to send only candy-free options. Teachers may be open to a classroom full of kids who are NOT sugared up on Valentine’s Day! You can offer to coordinate the gift exchange or write the letter for parents, offering suggestions and where to buy pre-packaged Valentine card kits. These are cheap, easy and readily available, and come with great non-candy items like pencils, stickers and temporary tattoos.
3. Plan to avoid the candy
I don’t like to advocate missing school, but if your child has problems with candy or sugar and you think he might eat the candy anyway, consider keeping them away from school at party time. Or, if the teacher is keeping the treats until the end of day, make sure your child is driven home so that he doesn’t eat all the treats on the bus ride. That way, you can manage when and where he eats his treats.
4. Cut out extra sugar in advance
The trick here is to lower your child’s sugar intake rather than eliminate it in the days leading up to the event. You don’t want your child to detox all the sugar and then get a big rush on party day. Cut sweets back to a reasonable amount, like one treat a day. On the day of the event, make sure they have sugar free or very low sugar meals and snacks. That day, you can give your child an omelet or nut butter toast for breakfast, and pack fruit that is lower in sugar. Berries are a great pick, so are nectarines, cantaloupe, lemon, grapefruit and papaya. Don’t forget to avoid starchy foods that day too, like potatoes. Avoid packing juice. Don’t forget to check the sugar content of packaged foods like nut milks, deli meats, chips, etc. Finally, pack your child a filling lunch full of fiber and omega-3 foods (whole grain breads, sunflower seeds, vegetables, avocados) so they will crave less candy.
5. Rebalance your child’s system afterward
If sugar overload does occur for your child, make sure you have items on hand to get her body back in balance: a high quality enzyme, activated charcoal to cleanse their system or a good probiotic for kids. Ask your health care provider or practitioner to recommend quality brands and dosage of these products. (Be careful with probiotics if your child has a dairy allergy, as some are cultured from dairy.) Following the holiday, you may want to reduce the sugars, starches and excess carbs, and introduce bone broth and fermented foods if your child will eat them to get their gut bacteria back in balance.
Shifting the focus off of candy on Valentine’s Day gives us an opportunity to help our kids celebrate their relationships instead. This is a great time to learn to be a better friend. This year, ditch the box of candy and teach your children to show their love with acts of kindness, cards with compliments and notes of gratitude.