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Celebrating a birthday is a big milestone in a child’s life and having a party is a great way to acknowledge accomplishments from the previous year as well as look forward to what lies ahead. While birthday parties are often synonymous with junk food galore, the sugar rush doesn’t necessarily have to be the main focus. Some tips to avoid less healthy foods:
Make your own pizza using whole wheat English muffins or pitas
Make your own fruit kabobs with dark chocolate dipping sauce
Serve a homemade sandwich platter or small fruit smoothies
Offer mini-cupcakes instead of a traditional sheet cake
Goodie bags can be filled with non-food items like little toys, stickers, pencils/crayons/markers and healthy snacks like no-salt popcorn and dried fruit
Another tip: Keep the attention on the fun activities planned for the kids and get the adults involved to get the whole group up and moving or engaged in the particular activity.
Celebrations at school may also be an area for improvement. Some schools or classrooms may have party policies or wellness policies that address birthday parties in place. All members of the school community should be aware of any guidelines. In schools where no guidelines exist, parents can play a role in streamlining various practices (for example, celebrating birthdays monthly, not individually) to positively impact health.
Parties are certainly a great way to bring people together and enjoying treats are a natural part of birthdays and other rituals and holidays. While we don’t want to become completely overzealous in controlling every aspect of our kids’ consumption, we must also be aware of strategies to promote healthful environments—and redirect attention away from an overabundance of junk and toward the engaging activities that are also key components of these celebrations.
Contributor: Catherine Staffieri, Dietetic Intern