holidays

A Call for Candy-Free Valentines

by Sally on February 4, 2014

Valentine's Day

Remember Valentine’s Day as a kid? If your school was anything like mine, you found an old shoebox, cut a slot in the top, and decorated it with paper doilies and puffy heart stickers. You stationed it on your desk at school and made the rounds in the classroom, giggling and dropping valentines in your friends’ shoeboxes. The “room moms” gave everyone a Dixie cup of cherry Kool-Aid and a homemade cupcake. And when you had delivered your last card and licked the frosting from your fingers, you opened your shoebox and pored over the valentines, some of which were handmade, and all of which seemed very, very special.

For my kids, Valentine’s Day still looks a lot like that. They decorate shoeboxes. The room parents still plan a class party that usually includes a treat. But the valentines? Candy manufacturers seem to have highjacked those. There are now Blow Pop Valentines and Fun Dip Valentines. There are gummy fruit snack pouches and little boxes of Nerds you can write on–so you don’t even need paper valentines anymore. Last year my kids’ shoeboxes looked more like Trick-or-Treat than Valentine’s Day (Read “I Have No Love for Candy Valentines“).

I’m not against candy on Valentine’s Day. In years past, I’ve bought small, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates for my kids on the holiday. Chocolate and Valentine’s Day are practically synonymous, I get it (and as a chocolate lover myself, I’m okay with it). What I’m against is food manufacturers finding yet another way to push even more of their candy and junk onto families. It’s all about marketing. It’s all about money. And it doesn’t do our kids any good (especially the ones with life-threatening food allergies).

If you agree, I hope you’ll check out this post from School Bites, which urges parents to avoid buying candy valentines this year–and to spread the word to other parents, to teachers, and to the school’s principal and PTA. She even includes a sample email you can send to your child’s teacher or principal if you’d like to see class valentines go back to basics.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about candy valentines, so please share them.

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5 Last-Minute Holiday Food Gifts

by Sally on December 15, 2013

5 (Last-Minute!) Holiday Food Gifts from Real Mom NutritionI get a little frazzled around the holidays. That means I don’t always plan ahead (read: I never plan ahead) and gather little gifts for friends and party hosts. Since I love to cook and bake, food gifts are a natural choice. So when I need something fast, I turn to things I already have on hand or can pull together quickly. Here are five of my current favorites:

1: Homemade jams and jellies: If you have some in your freezer or pantry, package up a jar by itself or with a loaf of homemade or bakery bread.

2: Local meat: I buy local, grass-fed beef in bulk, which means I always have one-pound packages of frozen ground beef to tuck into a festive bag. (You may also be able to get some at a winter farmer’s market.) Yes, ground meat is an unconventional gift–but it always goes over well. Just be sure your host stashes it in the freezer right away.

3. Preserved fruit: If you put up any fruit during peak season, a jar of home-preserved goodies from your cupboard makes a sweet and simple gift. Who wouldn’t love the flavor of July peaches or September applesauce in the cold winter months?

4. Cocoa mix: This simple hot cocoa mix is easy to stir together. I recently made a triple batch, scooped it into jars topped off with a swatch of cloth, and brought it to a holiday gift exchange.

 5. Granola: I’ve been making granola instead of buying regular cereal, so I usually have some around. Otherwise, it takes 10 minutes to mix together then about an hour to bake in the oven. I use this 100 Days of Real Food recipe but liberally modify it based on the nuts and seeds I happen to have.

What are your favorite holiday food gifts to give?

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I Have No Love for Candy Valentines

February 15, 2013

I organized the Valentine’s Day party in my son’s classroom this year. We have a lot of food allergies among the third graders–and I’m always looking for ways to reduce junk anyway–so we planned a buffet of red fruits and vegetables: red pepper strips, dried cherries, red raspberries, pomegranate seeds, strawberries, and all-fruit smoothies. My […]

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Halloween Snack Solutions for Classroom Parties

October 1, 2012

I like candy corn and pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies as much as the next person. But our little trick-or-treaters are about to be bombarded with sweets. So if your child’s class is celebrating Halloween with a party, why not go easy on the treats? Many schools are now requesting healthier party snacks anyway. Here are three ideas: […]

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Join the Project 40 Fitness Challenge!

November 29, 2011

I’m one-third of the way through Project 40, and one thing is crystal clear: I’m failing miserably at my exercise goals. I’ve all but stopped eating at the computer, and evening snacks barely tempt me anymore. But the exercise. Oh, the exercise. I’m not sure what my problem is. I’m busy, but I’ve been busy before. I’m tired, […]

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A Radical Suggestion for Holiday Eating

November 23, 2011

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving–and the official start of the holiday party circuit. Worried about overeating your way into 2012? You should be.  A lot of us treat the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve as one big excuse to eat reindeer-shaped frosted sugar cookies for breakfast. Worried about your kids? You don’t have to be. […]

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