It’s the holiday season! If I had fifty cents for every time I heard “Can we have dessert?...” Wow. I would be well, rich. But, I don’t have those cents. What I have to find instead is the common sense to get my kids through this holiday season without dental carries, without gut-rot and without a newfound addiction to sugary treats. It gets harder as they get older. Just LAST Christmas I commented to my mom that Molly could care less about sweets. At the time, she much preferred salty peanuts, chewy dried apples, baked chicken. Now, at 3.75 years old, she has followed in her brother’s footsteps…and has come to adore sweets! But, also let me back up and say that something happens to kids when they go to preschool and suddenly they are faced with an onslaught of birthday cupcakes, grocery cookies and Halloween candy for the first time in their lives. It’s not an easy transition for most families – as surely, there are bound to be some side effects from these food changes. Moms and dads are no longer completely in control of their little one’s foods (think, shared snack times at school) and they must give up some element of control. At times it feels the simpler days of fresh whole foods are gone, replaced by the industrialized food machine. But, I digress.
So, how to stay sane during the holidays? I don’t know if I totally have the answer, but I do have a strategy. Make your own healthy sweets. Ones that you feel good about. Ones that you can go back to the container for a second time and everyone is happy and mom and dad know that there might be a super-food or an antioxidant in there to balance things out. But, please keep this in mind – even natural sweets (i.e., dates) still have a blood sugar-destabilizing 26 grams of sugar for just 6 of those little beauties. So, yes, even healthy treats can go overboard. I know this, because on Sunday, I made 4 varieties of healthy treats and I tasted every single one of them along the way. As someone who doesn’t consume sugar daily (except in the form of fruit), I had a literal sugar attack by the end of my baking festival, and I thought I was going to be sick. I needed to lay down. Whoa. Powerful stuff.
Back to my strategy. Make enough homemade chocolate mint fudge (see recipe) to stash away for the holidays, so when the not-so-healthy treats come around, you can say “no thank you” but promise the kids something sweet from home later (say, after dinner). Even though my kids both love sweets, this strategy has helped them discern which sweets they really want to eat. Once, Clay politely declined sweets at a birthday party and said to me quietly “Mom, when we get home, can I please have some of the chocolate-almond cookies we made?” I was so proud! It does help that the kids and I are completely gluten-free, and now both of the kids know that most treats are made with gluten that will make them feel badly. But, knowing that they don’t really miss the regular stuff makes me happy and hopeful that their futures will be healthy too.
Kids’ taste buds are super-charged! A little sweet, salty, sour or bitter is about 100% more powerful on their virgin palates than on ours. That is why a drop of local, raw honey on a piece of toast, or a tablespoon of grade B maple syrup on their oatmeal, or a pinch of coconut sugar mixed in to natural peanut butter is all you really need to give your kids a sweet taste, without overwhelming their senses and re-programming their brains to always want something more powerful. Teach your kids about sugar. Connect the dots between sugar and their dental health – when brushing we say “get all the sugar bugs out.” Let them overindulge one time on Halloween (perhaps when they are a little older – maybe 5?) so they can experience the full effect of a sugar-induced belly ache. It might seem rather negligent in your parenting, but I guarantee it’s an incredible life lesson for your youngster that won’t be repeated. Explain the difference between “growing foods” (fruits, veggies, meat, whole grain) and “fun foods.” Set limits on the amount of sweets per day or per week or whatever feels right to you.
Naturally Sweet Snacks Suitable for Kids 12 Months and Up (and their Moms & Dads too!)
· Plain organic Greek yogurt topped with cinnamon, raw honey, walnuts, and chopped apples
· Roasted sweet potatoes topped with pastured butter, raw honey and cinnamon
· Homemade whole grain pancakes or waffles topped with grade B 100% pure organic maple syrup
· Baked apples or pears (core the fruit, fill hole with raw honey, cinnamon and nuts/seeds, and bake until soft)
· Dried organic fruits, no sugars or sweeteners added
· Homemade trail mix with assortment of raw nuts and seeds, dried fruit, coconut flakes, goji berries, and/or cacao nibs
· Fresh fruit smoothies with plain organic yogurt, any type of fruit, raw honey (add some baby spinach too!)
· All-natural nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew) on whole grain toast or crackers, drizzled with raw honey
· Warm almond milk and raw honey
· Apples or bananas dipped in nut butter, sprinkled with cinnamon
· Dark chocolate-covered almonds (my personal favorite)
Chocolate Mint Fudge
3/4 cup Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
3/4 cup Raw Local Honey
1/2 cup Organic Raw Cocoa Powder [I used dark Cocoa Powder]
pinch of sea salt
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp Peppermint Extract
Over low heat, melt coconut oil in small sauce pan. Once melted add honey, cocoa powder, sea salt, vanilla and peppermint extract. Mix thoroughly with a wire whisk until thick and smooth.
Spoon fudge into candy or ice cube trays and place in freezer for 15-30 minutes or until solid. Remove fudge from trays. I found that leaving them out for a couple of minutes helped me pop them out of the trays. You can also pour fudge into a baking sheet, freeze and cut into squares with a knife.
Fudge will be chewy and beyond addicting. Enjoy!