Valentine’s treats that are sweet as can be and healthier

Isn’t your child sweet enough on her own? Replace the candy and cookies with these easy ideas.

The first “big” holiday of the year is right around the corner — Valentine’s Day. And with that we are once again inundated with store shelves filled with candies and cookies and endless sugary treats.

Did you know that 10 innocuous-looking “I luv u” hearts contain 120 calories? Not too terribly bad — if you were to stop at just 10. But each box contains 20 to 25 hearts, and 10 of these tiny candies contain a whopping 24 grams of sugar.

If your child prefers baked goods, a single heart-shaped sugar cookie with icing has 358 calories and packs in 31.5 grams of sugar.

According to the American Heart Association, children up to age 8 should have no more than 3 to 4 teaspoons of added sugar per day (that’s almost 17 grams of sugar). Older children and teens should limit themselves to no more than 5 to 8 teaspoons (up to 34 grams) of added sugar each day.

By eating just those Valentine’s treats, your child’s sugar intake is twice the daily limit — or more.

As parents, it’s our job to guide our children in the right direction when it comes to nutrition and good health, even when it’s a special holiday. Consider alternatives to what you can give your children that will make them just as happy and boost their wellbeing.

Some ideas for healthier Valentine’s treats:
  • One mom takes a vitamin C-packed “Cutie” mandarin orange and dolls it up with special Valentine packaging that says, “You’re a Cutie!” or “I have peelings for you!” These little gems are good for kids because they are sweet but contain no fat or cholesterol and are rich in vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.
  • Watermelon skewers. Even though it’s early for watermelon season, you can generally find it packaged in your produce department. Kids love the crunchy, juicy sweetness. Take a small heart-shaped cookie cutter and press out pieces. Skewer them onto a bamboo stick, alternating with chunks of pineapple, cantaloupe or blueberries, and you have a great treat on a stick. Watermelon is filled with antioxidant lycopene and vitamin A. Pineapple is rich in vitamin C (131 percent), vitamin B6, thiamin, riboflavin and many other nutrients. Cantaloupe has a high water concentration that helps ward off dehydration, and blueberries are one of the highest in antioxidants of all fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings.
  • Strawberry fun. This versatile, vitamin C-laden fruit bursting with fiber can be used in many different ways, from sticking them on the end of a bamboo skewer to look like Cupid’s arrow to using them as a “dip stick” for yogurt or chocolate pudding.
  • Valentine’s Day trail mix. Kids love crunchy treats so opt for this mix instead of having them crunch down on candy bars or lollipops. This incorporates some sugar, but much less than what you’ll find in other goodies.

4 cups miniature pretzels
4 cups Quaker heart-shaped cereal (or favorite cereal)
3 cups (1 box) Chocolate Teddy Grahams
2 cups dried cherries or cranberries
2 cups yogurt-covered raisins
2 cups Valentine-colored M&Ms
All it takes is a little imagination and creativity to provide your children with treats that taste good and are good for them. Guiding them on the right track toward good nutrition is one way we can give them a Happy Valentine’s Day!