By Kelley Lindberg
Here it comes… another candy-oriented holiday. Since the day after Christmas, the grocery stores have been stocking all things pink and red, in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. It's still a month away, so that means there's time to plan ahead for a safe Valentine's Day.
|Gimbal's heart-shaped jelly beans were a huge|
hit with the teenage crowd at my house!
The go-to gift is often candy – especially chocolate and those little conversation hearts (you know, the chalky little hearts with words stamped on them). But if you or your sweetie has food allergies, candy may not be an easy choice. After all, nothing says “I love you” like anaphylactic shock, right? While you can sometimes find allergy-safe chocolate online and in stores, most is simply a no-no. And those conversation hearts? Both Brach’s and Necco’s hearts carry allergen warnings for
And it’s not just receiving candy that’s a problem. What if you think you’re being romantic and you give your non-allergic sweetie some traditional Valentine’s candy, and then she wants to kiss you, and you just happen to be allergic to an ingredient in that chocolate? “Will you be my Valentine? Great, now whatever you do, don’t kiss me,” isn’t really the kind of dialogue romantic movies are known for, is it?
And then there’s the whole school Valentine exchange thing, where all the kids take in Valentine’s cards to drop in each other’s elaborately decorated Valentine holders, and parents seem to just love all the little candy add-ons. But if you know a kid in your classroom has allergies, what can you do to keep that child safe while still making your own child’s Valentines a little extra-special?
Well, first off, if you’re the super-ambitious type, you could make your own Homemade Conversation Hearts, using this recipe that calls for unflavored gelatin, light corn syrup and confectioner’s sugar, plus food colorings and food coloring markers.
Yeah, okay, now that we’ve all had a good laugh (I mean, really, who has time for THAT?), let’s look at some other options:
- Heart-shaped jelly beans, anyone? Gimbal’s Fine Candies has some really tasty heart-shaped jelly beans in a huge variety of flavors. I had a half-dozen teenagers in my kitchen the other day, and I set out bowls of Gimbal’s Cherry Lovers (9 different cherry flavors!), Sour Lovers (12 sour flavors, coated with sugar like gum drops or Sour Patch Kids), and Cinnamon Lovers (red-hot cinnamon goodness!). As you can imagine, all 3 bags disappeared in a heartbeat (ha! pun intended). My favorite is the Cherry Lovers, but judging by how fast the bowl emptied, the teens’ favorite was the Sour Lovers (“These are way better than Sour Patch Kids” was the final verdict), with the other two varieties coming in close behind. The best thing about Gimbal’s Fine Candies is that Gimbal’s Allergy Statement here. These are so much better than those chalky conversation hearts, it’s ridiculous.
- Peanut Free Planet : One of my favorite online grocery stores for allergy-aware treats, Peanut Free Planet offers candy from many allergy-friendly brands. They also carry candy from Canadian manufacturers, who manage to make nut-free versions of popular chocolate candy bars that you just can’t find from American factories (my son’s favorites are the nut-free Kit-Kat bars and the Wagon Wheels, both made in Canada).
- Local grocery stores have options, too: Every year, I manage to find a few Valentine’s candy options that are free from the Big 8. Look for hard candy lollipops, and candies from those reliable standbys like Starburst, Skittles, and Jolly Rancher. I generally have the best luck finding safe candy at Dollar Tree, followed by Smith’s (Kroger brand is getting better and better at safe manufacturing), and Target. On the other hand, I have a much harder time finding safe candy at Walmart.
- Non-food treats: For school, of course, I highly recommend avoiding food altogether. The last thing any of those kids need, allergies or not, is more candy. So hit the party aisle at your local discount store or dollar store, order from www.OrientalTrading.com, or check out these adorable ideas from www.PopSugar.com’s “The 48 Best Noncandy Valentine Ideas for Kids.” (Just remember, Play-Doh contains wheat, so it’s not safe for wheat/gluten-allergic kids.)
Whatever you choose to do for Valentine's Day, I hope it's a day full of love, hugs, and lots of giggles.