If you look forward to enjoying Valentine’s Day treats each February, you’re definitely not alone.
But while many people take part in the celebration, this sweet holiday tradition can have a negative impact on oral health and wellness. This season, choose among the following eight healthy alternatives to save your teeth and keep your smile bright.
1. Dark Chocolate-Covered Nuts
Believe it or not, dark chocolate can provide you with antioxidants and other health benefits, and nuts stimulate saliva production and reduce tooth decay risks, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). A compound in dark chocolate called theobromine may also help protect tooth enamel, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Nutrients. These benefits make dark chocolate-covered nuts the perfect candy replacement this Valentine’s Day season.
2. Fresh and Frozen Fruit
When looking for a healthy alternative to Valentine’s Day treats, frozen fruit can be just as satiating. The sweetness of fresh fruit can satisfy just about any sweet tooth—without the extra calories and added sugar. Plus, the fiber found in different fruits provides slimming benefits for your waistline.
Try frozen bananas or berries, blended fruit ice pops or frozen dark chocolate banana bites. You can cut fresh or frozen fruit into creative shapes for seasonal parties or some fun with the kids.
3. Flavored Chewing Gum
Choose gum over sweet treats this Valentine’s Day to keep cavity risks low. The ADA says chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals helps to prevent cavities. Look for sugarless gums carrying the ADA seal.
4. Dairy Foods
The beneficial effects that dairy can have on your teeth might surprise you. Calcium and protein-rich milk, yogurt and cheeses boost cavity-lowering saliva and help replace lost minerals in your teeth, the University of Rochester Medical Center reports.
Choose dairy foods with no sugar added, such as unsweetened yogurt and cheeses. This Valentine’s Day, consider heart-shaped cheese as a festive appetizer.
5. Tea or Coffee
Treat yourself (or a loved one) to a new flavor of your favorite coffee or tea in place of sugary drinks this Valentine’s Day. More specifically, the University of Rochester Medical Center suggests you choose unsweetened green or black tea. The polyphenols in these drinks help inhibit bacteria growth in your mouth and can even be a source of cavity-preventing fluoride, in some cases.
6. Avocado or Almond Butter “Ice Cream”
What better way to satisfy a sweet tooth craving than by choosing healthy ice cream over cavity-causing sweet treats? This year, try avocado ice cream or almond butter ice cream instead of the traditional stuff as a way to lower health risks and keep your smile sparkling. Make avocado or almond butter ice cream into ice pops for a healthy treat your kids will be excited about.
7. Unsweetened Dried or Pureed Fruit
Consider trying unsweetened dried or pureed fruit (such as banana chips cooked in coconut oil, or unsweetened, cinnamon-flavored applesauce) if fresh or frozen fruit isn’t your thing. Experiment with dehydrating your own bananas, apples or pears—without adding sugar—at home as a way to ensure an all natural, healthy and sweet candy replacement.
8. Valentine’s Day Crackers
If you’re seeking a healthy Valentine’s Day-themed snack that your children can have fun with, consider pink Goldfish crackers designed for Valentine’s Day kids’ festivities. Your children will likely love this fun alternative, and as a parent, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing this snack improves oral health when used in place of traditional Valentine’s Day treats.
Nixing Sweet Treats
Cutting out sweets this February doesn’t have to feel unsatisfying, dull or boring when you choose nutritious, delicious alternatives. Enjoy Valentine’s Day without the guilt, extra calories and cavity risks that come with the added sugar found in traditional Valentine’s Day treats.