Your child wants to celebrate her birthday by bringing treats to school
to share with her classmates. Not too long ago, that would have meant
going to the supermarket and buying cupcakes from the bakery section or
whipping up a batch of brownies. But with concerns about childhood food
allergies, artificial colors and flavors, trans fat and calorie content
in processed baked goods--not to mention 25 kids bouncing off the walls
from sugar--more and more parents are looking for healthier ways to celebrate
special events at school.
Here are five healthy ideas to try for the next class party:
When in doubt, opt for fruit. Fruit has a natural sweetness that still makes it a yummy treat for kids,
and there are several ways to spiff it up for special occasions. Slice
up apples or strawberries and serve with a homemade yogurt dip, or cut
up different fruits and serve them in small cups as a fruit salad (with
or without a little whipped cream on top) or threaded kabob style on plastic
skewers (no sharp edges, please!). Fruit can also be mashed up and baked
into healthy mini-muffins or blended into smoothies.
Don't forget to think savory. Popcorn, pretzels, homemade party mix, crackers and cheese, or veggies
and ranch dressing can all be served as alternatives to sweets.
Be smart about sweets. If your child has their heart set on a sweet treat, be wise about what
goes in it. Homemade is ideal, because you can control the ingredients.
Look for recipes that accommodate healthy swaps, such as applesauce or
avocado for butter, or simply offer healthier twists on sugary desserts,
such as low-fat puddings or slices of angel-food cake. Whatever you make,
keep portions small--a little dessert goes a long way.
Know the classroom guidelines. Before deciding on any treat, ask the teacher if there are any food allergies
in class that you should be aware of; most schools also have wellness
policies that include suggestions for class parties, so familiarize yourself
with that as well. If guidelines aren't already in place in your child's
class, get together with like-minded parents and collaborate with the
teacher on a suggested list of healthy snacks and treats that can be distributed
to all parents.
Skip food entirely. Who says you need a treat to celebrate? Your child can select small gifts
to hand out to fellow students--think a colorful pencil with a homemade
"Happy Birthday" tag attached. Or talk with the teacher ahead
of time to see if you can schedule a special activity, such as a 10-minute
dance party, a craft, extra time on the playground or the opportunity
for the birthday child to read her favorite book aloud to the class.