Experts agree that, in moderate amounts, sugar isn't really going to harm your child. But at a birthday party, kids typically eat a lot of sugar -- too much, in fact -- in a short amount of time. All that sugar and junk food can cause your child's blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, leading to post-cake meltdowns. And those aren't fun for anybody.
So, what do you do? It seems kind of unfair to take away treats altogether, especially at a birthday party. We say, "Let them eat (cup)cake!" Just leave the other sugary nibbles out of it, and try some of our super-fun, kid-friendly -- but healthy -- snacks.
Build Your Own Masterpiece
How about combining snack time and activity time during a party? Kids love doing arts and crafts, and kids love to snack. It's a win-win.
Give each child a white plastic or paper plate (i.e., the "canvas"). Tell them they're going to create works of art, and then they're going to eat them. Provide them with ample "art supplies," like celery and carrot sticks, cucumber rounds, slices of fruit, and lettuce leaves. Don't forget "decorations" like seeds, nuts (only if nobody at the party is allergic!), raisins, olives and beans. Then give your budding artists some "glue." Think peanut butter, ranch dressing, cream cheese or cheese spread, and yogurt.
Encourage the kids to create something special -- a car, dinosaur, flower or anything they can think of. You can even take souvenir photos of the kids with their creations before the kids devour them.
Banana Ice Cream
Perfect for a summer party, this banana "ice cream" couldn't be easier to make and contains only one single ingredient. Yet it tastes just like ice cream!
Peel a bunch of ripe bananas -- the riper they are, the sweeter they are. Slice them up and freeze them (a couple of hours is fine). Remove from the freezer and puree. The bananas will turn into a creamy, frozen confection with the consistency of a frozen custard. If you prefer the "hard" ice cream texture, simply freeze the puree until it reaches the desired texture. You'll be shocked at how much it tastes like a rich, banana-flavored ice cream.
Some people up the ante by adding things like honey or peanut butter to the puree. We think it stands great just on its own, but this is so easy to make that we urge you to experiment. Your kids will love it.
Fruit and Cheese Kebabs
Kids love to eat things on sticks. But let's skip the corn dogs and cotton candy and go for something just as fun but a little more healthful. These fruit and cheese kebabs fit the bill, and provide some vitamins and protein at the same time.
Kebab-friendly fruits include strawberries, blueberries, melon balls and raspberries. (We recommend avoiding bananas or apples because they'll turn brown as they sit out, and picky kids will likely turn up their noses.) Cut out pieces of cheese with cookie cutters in shapes like stars or hearts, or whatever the theme of the birthday party might be. Then, assemble the snacks by alternating two pieces of fruit with one piece of cheese on the kebab.
Do remember that you shouldn't give sharp kebab sticks to children too young to handle them.
Make Your Own Pizza
Again, kids are more likely to eat something they made themselves. Turn your birthday party into a "make your own" pizza party, and kids will show their approval by cleaning their plates.
You can easily make individual pizzas with pita bread. We recommend whole wheat. Before you give each kid his or her crust, brush a little olive oil and pizza sauce on the pitas. You can buy pizza sauce at the grocery or make your own.
Place bowls of cheese and toppings on the table. Depending on how many kids you have, you might want to put out several bowls of each. Have the kids sprinkle on some low-fat cheese and toppings on the pizza. Toppings could include turkey pepperoni, mushrooms, broccoli, pineapple -- whatever you think the kids might like! After everyone's done making their pies, place them on baking sheets and cook for five to seven minutes at 400 degrees. You'll know they're done when the cheese is melted.
Slice the pizzas up into smaller triangles with a pizza cutter to make them into bite-size snacks.
Build Your Own Tacos
Kids love taco night, so why not snack on tacos at the birthday party? It doesn't have to be a greasy, cheesy, unhealthy affair. Bake tortillas in a cupcake pan to make mini tortilla cups. Set out fillings -- lean ground turkey, instead of beef, low-fat cheeses, vegetarian refried beans, and veggies like shredded lettuce, tomatoes and corn, plus cilantro and mild salsa. Each child gets a baked tortilla cup to fill with whatever toppings he or she desires.
We think the kids will give a hearty cheer for these simple snacks! For more about kids and food, check out the links on the next page.
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- Durand, Faith. "How to Make Creamy Ice Cream with Just One Ingredient!" The Kitchn. Aug. 19, 2009. (Jan. 28, 2011)http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/stay-cool/how-to-make-creamy-ice-cream-with-just-one-ingredient-093414
- "Easy Pita Bread Pizza." Food.com. Feb. 2, 2005. (Jan. 28, 2011)http://www.food.com/recipe/easy-pita-bread-pizza-110067
- "Healthy Tacos: Guilt-free crispy tacos." Eating Well. 2011. (Jan. 28, 2011)http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/quick_healthy_cooking/healthy_tacos
- Sachs, Jessica Plant, Jacqueline, Berg, Fraya and Brookhart-Schervish, Lori. "The 20 Best Snacks for Kids." Parents. 2011. (Jan. 28, 2011)http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/feeding/healthy-eating/the-20-best-snacks-for-kids/
- Snyder. "Sugar: Does It Really Make Kids Hyper?" Parenting. 2011. (Jan. 28, 2011)http://www.parenting.com/article/sugar-does-it-make-kids-hyper
- Warner, Penny. "Serious About Snacks." Disney Family Fun. 2011. (Jan. 28, 2011)http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/cooking-with-kids/serious-about-snacks-714779/