The old cliche "a sweet for a sweet" might excite the students attending an elementary Valentine's Day party, but there are far more party snack options than just cake and cookies. If your child is asked to bring a snack for a Valentine's Day party, check with the school for snack preferences. Sweet treats might be welcome, but many schools encourage healthier snack options and might restrict sweets entirely.
Take inspiration from tiny conversation candy hearts and make a larger version with heart-shaped sugar cookies. Prepare the sugar cookie dough two days before the party, allowing it to chill overnight. Roll out the dough and cut out the dough with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Bake the cookies until golden and allow them to cool completely. Make royal icing to a piping consistency with meringue powder, powdered sugar and water, using food coloring gel to color them red, pink or your choice of pastel colors. Outline the heart cookies with the royal icing. Thin the icing to a flooding consistency with water, and flood inside the outline to fill in the cookies. Allow the icing to harden and dry overnight before taking the cookies to school. Kids can write Valentine's Day messages on the cookies with royal icing made to piping consistency.
A set of heart-shaped cookie cutters can turn a wide variety of snack foods into Valentine's Day snacks that kids will actually eat. Make sandwiches such as turkey and cheese, and cut the crusts off with a large heart cookie cutter. Avoid worries about nut allergies by making sandwiches with raspberry or strawberry fruit spread and cream cheese instead of peanut butter. Shape empanada dough into hearts, crimping the edges with a fork, and serve with salsa. You can even make mini heart-shaped pizzas. Strawberries cut in half with hulls removed are shaped like hearts when the open sides face upward. Even cucumbers can have ridges that look like hearts when sliced.
Throw a party with a red food theme that incorporates the Valentine's Day theme while including all food groups. Serve sliced pepperoni and rolled up prosciutto on a deli platter -- some prosciutto is intensely red while other brands are vaguely pink. Serve strawberry flavored milk or yogurt with strawberries or raspberries to satisfy the dairy group. Keep kids energized with a veggie tray that includes red pepper strips, cherry tomatoes and roasted beets, served with roasted red pepper hummus dip. A fruit tray might include pomegranates, strawberries, raspberries, red grapes, cherries and watermelon along with a cream cheese and strawberry yogurt dip. Try red tomato tortillas served with fire roasted salsa to give kids a daily dose of whole grains.
Hearts are a prominent symbol of Valentine's Day, and February is also National Heart Month, so use the party as an opportunity to teach kids about heart healthy eating. Serve only foods that contribute to a healthy heart, low cholesterol and a healthy blood pressure range. Choose whole grain foods such as sandwiches on whole grain bread, whole grain tortilla chips or brown rice snacks. Make healthy pizzas with whole grain bagels or English muffins, fresh tomato sauce, low-fat cheese, and healthy toppings such as bell peppers or broccoli. In place of sweet treats, try baked apples stuffed with honey, raisins and oatmeal. Trays of fresh fruit and vegetables also make heart healthy choices.
- American Heart Association: Healthy Snacking
- ABC News: Top Five Heart-Healthy Snacks
- Eating Well: 5 Red Foods for Health
- Wilton: Royal Icing
- Edna Maguire Elementary School: Valentine's Treats Recommended by the Nutrition and Wellness Committee
- PBS Kitchen Explorers: Healthy Treats for Class Celebrations