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A Healthi(er) Birthday Party

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The calendar has turned another page, and now it’s time to plan that next birthday party. You ask your kid what he wants to serve, and the response is, “Chips. Candy. Cake.” You close your eyes, rub your temples a little bit, and try to remind yourself that it’s the nutrition you provide during the majority of the year that counts. And then you start planning, balancing your desire to keep the party reasonably healthy without being a total killjoy. So…what’s on the menu? Our top five tips include:

1) Lots of crunch. Fresh fruits, veggies, popcorn, whole-grain crackers, favorite cereals, and even nuts (but only if there are no allergy issues at the party). Your food is going to be a lot more appealing to kids if it has that satisfying “snap, crunch” factor.

2) Mad color. Of course you’re going to have tons of crisp fruits and veggies. So play it up. Don’t settle for pre-packaged fruit and veggie trays if the produce looks sad, limp, or washed out. Does your kid like carrots? Make a fun tray of yellow, purple, and orange carrots. Is your kid clamoring for chips? Go a little radical with some sweet potato or other root chips. (His friends won’t know they don’t like them until they try them.)

3) Eye-catching displays. At most parties you might walk by a bowl of chips or party mix and either walk right by it or mindlessly grab some. Make your food visible and intentional. A veggie tower; a cornucopia spilling with fruit; a Death Star carved out of watermelon…you get the idea. Weave your theme into your display, and better yet – let your kid brainstorm on the best way to display it.

4) Make your own. Not you – them. We’re talking make-your-own pizzas, taco bars, baked potato bars, and so on. You offer plenty of toppings that include green onions, chopped bell peppers, avocado slices, etc. If the kids pass them up – fine. But why not give them the opportunity to add a little color to their creations?

5) Break the mold. Yeah, yeah, chips and candy. This time, let your child choose one special food that he likes that’s a little bit “off the grid.” Does he have a weakness for wontons? A hankering for hummus? A temptation for taquitos? A sensation for samosas? OK, we’re going a little overboard here, but you get the idea. Let your child’s individuality shine through by offering at least one special food that he loves. Example: At our last party, we offered up a giant bowl of black kalamata olives – our kiddo’s favorite. Who knows, maybe his best buddies might discover they like it too?

Now – let them eat cake!

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7 Responses to A Healthi(er) Birthday Party

  1. Stacy@School-Bites.com January 28, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    Such fun ideas, thank you!! I threw a “healthier” birthday party for my 7-year-old in October. Homemade popcorn in decorated cups, fresh fruit, and water bottles with Lego Ninjago stickers. Followed by a very buttery homemade cake, of course. The kids were focused on bowling and have fun while happily chomping on the healthy snacks. They didn’t even seem to notice the absence of Cheetohs and juice boxes.

  2. Dorothy at ShockinglyDelicious January 28, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    Fantastic advice, all of it! I love your little bell pepper palm tree, too!

    • Jeanne January 28, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

      Thanks – forgot to mention that the bell pepper palm tree idea is from The Secret Life of Food, one of my favorite fun-food cookbooks.

  3. amee January 29, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    WOW!!! (WOW upside down is MOM…and you are a wow mom). This is so pretty and creative. And really i think everybody eats the veggies and dip if in front of them. people eat it without even thinking. love the little palm tree..is that basil??

    • Jeanne January 29, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

      You are too kind, Amee! That is a carrot topped with a carved bell pepper. The idea is from one of my fave cookbooks, The Secret Life of Food. The trick is to stick it in something (cream cheese, in this case) to keep it from toppling!

  4. Chelsea February 19, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    Your blog is TOO CUTE!! I’m so sending these ideas to my friend who just started teaching elementary school 😀

    Also, I might just be obsessed with that death star watermelon. YUM!

    • Jeanne February 19, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

      Thank you so much, Chelsea!

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