Friendship, love and fun. Cards, treats and gifts. These are words that come to mind when I think about Valentine’s Day. If you have been out of the house anytime after Christmas, you have seen heart-shaped treats and red-pink colored things everywhere you go! You may have even seen cupid flying around!
As a mom of school-aged children, I want my girls to be able to enjoy the holiday but also be mindful of their health and their friends’ health. When they get home from school, we read the Valentine’s cards, we play with their little trinkets and of course we indulge in some of the sweet treats they get. My daughters do not have any food restrictions besides moderation of those foods we place in the “every once in a while” category. Unfortunately, that’s not case for many other families. Food allergies and intolerances are present in schools across the country. I believe in being mindful of these kids as if they were my own! Considering a mix of non-edible treats and food treats that are free of the top 6 allergens (milk, soy, wheat, eggs, peanuts/treenuts, fish/shellfish) are great ideas to spread the love and friendship we want to share on this special day!
Teach your child the plan – Whether your goal is safety of an allergic reaction or moderation of their sweets intake, communication is key! Making sure children are educated on what they can or cannot have is essential. It is never too early for them to know the why of your decision and their choices. If there are food allergies you may want them to wait until they get home to eat their treats. You may also choose to have them check with their teacher before they consume a treat they received. If your child does not have food allergies, you may just prefer less sweet treats for them that day. In that case, talking with your little one is also helpful. Ensuring they know that you do not want them to eat every piece of candy they get before arriving home from school, will help them follow the plan.
Give non-edible treats - This is my favorite way of dealing with holiday treats. We do this at several holidays throughout the year. Pencils, pens, erasers, yo-yo’s, rings, stamps, stickers… you name it, they love it! A card with a little trinket brings smiles to little ones of all ages.
Consider a trading program – Kids love this one! You can trade sweet treats for a fun and much bigger non-food treat. How many pieces of candy can you eat anyway? Maybe let’s not answer that question. I will tell you from personal experience that tickets to the movie theater, a bowling outing, or even a new toy seem a lot more appetizing that a tummy full of candy. This is true even to those with a sweet tooth! If your child has food allergies, this allows them to see the holiday as fun and taking the attention away from food.
Discuss with other adults – If the classroom is having a party, talk with teacher. If going to a friend’s house, talk to the parents. You get the idea. Every family has their own rules and most parents are willing to help accommodate your own. I’ve learned a lot from other families’ rules, some we have even modified into our own. If moderation is your goal, explain to them why. Your child may even show moderation on their own if you have discussed the plan ahead of time with them or if they know there will be a bigger treat when they get home! If safety is involved, you can do the same. Feel free to send some treats your child is safe to have or let the parents know of some. At the end of the day, we are all parents and working together is key!
Read, read, read - If trying to avoid the top allergens, read and double check every label to ensure that the foods are free of your child’s allergens. If you are buying for others’, know that labels state the main allergenic ingredients (milk, soy, wheat, eggs, peanuts/treenuts, fish/shellfish) on their ingredient list or on a statement underneath. Be aware of foods processed in the same equipment or facility as other allergens! Some special edition treats made just for holidays are not prepared or processed the same as their original counterpart, they may even contain different ingredients. The most accurate information is on that product’s label.
Besides non-food treats like stickers, trinkets and pencils - there are many other treats that are safe! Some of these include but are not limited to: Skittles®, Dole® fruit cups, Dum Dums®, Mott’s® applesauce, Smarties®, Dots®. Surf Sweets® and Enjoy Life® are specifically allergen friendly brands that offer safe treats too!
Go have fun, enjoy the holiday and share the love with family and friends! xoxo