Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Parties: What a Difference a Year Makes!

February 13, 2008

by Jean Saunders, HSC School Wellness Director

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Thinking about the spoils from my son’s Valentine’s Day party last year (candy, candy, candy), I have to admit that I was dreading the sugar-induced aftermath that so often goes along with this annual celebration of friendship and love.

Last year, I wrote about the conflicting messages we send kids when we encourage them to adopt healthy lifestyles while hosting parties loaded with candy and heart-shaped frosted cookies.

But what a difference a year makes!

Our school wellness committee has been hard at work all year, and I think our message of good food and plentiful activity has made its way to the Valentine’s celebration.

Read on for news from the schools’ principal that arrived at our house in “the backpack mail,” and you’ll understand why my enthusiasm for the Valentine’s Day party has been reignited!

Our schools’ Health & Wellness Committee has been busy planning special activities….We focused our energies early on by working with Homeroom Parents as they teamed with teachers to plan special activities/snacks/treats for rooms (i.e. Halloween, Wintertime parties, birthdays, etc.). As we approach Valentine’s Day, we ask for the same focus on healthier snacks (i.e. fresh fruit, applesauce cups, pretzels, baked chips, mini muffins/cupcakes, oatmeal cookies, etc.)

Armed with these encouraging words from the principal, the room parent coordinating this year’s Valentine’s festivities for my son’s class has solicited healthy treats for the party. 

“As you’re chairing the health and wellness committee, I thought you’d be the perfect person to show us how fun it is to eat a healthy snack,” she said.

Of course I’m happy to make the snack! So, what to make. . . ? Well, it has to taste good, it should fit with the red theme, it should be easy to eat. . . hmm. . . I’ve got it! A variation on a perennial favorite: mini banana muffins with chocolate chips.  I’ll replace half of the mashed bananas with mashed strawberries!

Here’s the recipe:

Mini Strawberry-Banana Muffins

Muffin_4

Yield: 48 mini muffins or 24 “regular sized” muffins

Three bananas, soft
One 12 oz. package of frozen strawberries, thawed and pureed
One-half cup canola oil
Two eggs
One-third cup buttermilk
Three-fourths cup sugar
Two cups all purpose flour
One cup whole wheat flour
One tsp baking soda
One tsp baking powder
One-half tsp salt
Optional addition: Three-fourths cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare muffin tins (line with muffin cups or spray with pan spray).

Mash bananas, add strawberry puree. Mix with Canola oil, eggs buttermilk and sugar, set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Combine with a whisk. Add dry ingredients to banana mixture. Mix gently to combine.

Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes.  Cool for five minutes in muffin tins and then remove from tins and cool on a wire rack.

(Recipe courtesy of Jean Saunders)

A quick internet search affirms that there’s no shortage of ideas for Valentine’s Day celebrations. Zwolle Elementary School in Zwolle, LA offers a very comprehensive list of resources for activities and games (some more healthy than others!) on their school website.

And, I especially like eHow.com’s suggestions for teachers about integrating physical activity and lessons about the heart and circulatory system into Valentine’s parties.

I’d love to hear about the classroom Valentines’ Day celebrations at the schools in your neighborhood.