Have a fun and healthier birthday party

Closeup of "Happy Birthday" candles

Cropped image. Will Clayton, Flickr. CC license.

Pizza, soft drinks, candy and cake make their appearance at most kids’ birthday parties. While these foods can fit into a healthy diet as occasional treats, these days children tend to have the opportunity to go to more parties and activities making treats a big part of their life. As parents and caregivers, how can we offer more nutritious options for birthday celebrations and still make it fun for all who attend?

Serve a platter of sandwiches cut into fun cookie cutter shapes. Try sandwiches made with whole grain bread and turkey, chicken, cheese, or veggies (cucumber/spinach/shredded carrots). Use avocado as a spread to pump up the color. Another idea would be to cut up a wrap sandwich into pinwheels. Whole wheat lawash makes a good base for a wrap sandwich.

Other ideas to accompany the sandwich platter or offered on their own include:

  • Fruit smoothies in small cups
  • Peel-and-eat edamame
  • Whole-wheat pita triangles with hummus
  • Baked tortilla chips with bean dip and salsa
  • Watermelon slices
  • Apples slices with yogurt dip (mix cinnamon into Greek vanilla yogurt)
  • Clementines
  • Baby carrots, sugar snap peas and/or mini cucumbers with low-fat ranch dip

Turn food prep into a party activity. Not only is it fun, but kids like to eat what they have made. Try:

  • Do-it-yourself personal pizzas using whole-wheat English muffins or pita bread for crust. Top with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh veggies.
  • Taco/Nacho station. Children fill taco shells or top baked tortilla chips with taco meat made with ground turkey or fat free refried beans. Add reduced fat shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, salsa and reduced fat sour cream.
  • Make-your-own fruit kabobs.
  • Layered yogurt parfaits with berries, vanilla Greek yogurt and whole-grain cereal.
  • A rainbow salad bar. Let kids choose their own salad toppings from an array of colored vegetables, including shredded carrots, purple cabbage, sliced cucumbers, grape tomatoes, etc.).
  • Mini cupcakes with frosting instead of serving a large birthday cake to trim down portion size. Have the kids ice their own cupcake and include a sprinkle/topping station.

Avoid the fuss of take-away goodie bags filled with empty calorie goodies and/or plastic toys that will most likely end up in the garbage. Instead give the children an opportunity to share a special birthday wish with the birthday boy/girl as they‘re leaving the party. This can be done by writing a wish on an index card that is placed in a decorated birthday wish box or written directly on a blown-up picture or mat of a framed picture of the birthday boy or girl.

Adapted from “Kids Eat Right” by Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD

– Mary Ligotti-Hitch, R.D. is a registered dietitian with the Weight Control Center at Beaumont Health Center. Learn more about the Weight Control Center.

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