Healthy School Parties: 18 Fun Cupcake Alternatives (and Ways to Celebrate Without Food!)
|September 12, 2012||Posted by Stacy under Healthy parties, Recipes|
Last year, in a moment of sugar-induced maternal frustration, I tried to estimate how many treats kids at an elementary school like my son’s (with no restrictions on classroom celebrations) get in a year.
I started by taking the average class size in the United States (20 children, according to the National Center for Education Statistics). Assuming each student celebrates his birthday at school, that’s 20 cupcakes right off the bat. Add in holiday parties (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter), special events (our school, for example, has a 100 Days of School celebration every year), and unexpected extras (rewards for the class, a going-away party for a student, etc.), and you have about 10 to 15 more. If each one includes cake, cupcakes, cookies, ice cream, candy and other party food—which most do—that’s about 30 to 35 treats total, or about one per school day for 6 or 7 straight weeks.
But hey, who’s counting?!?
As I reported last week, this year promises to be a much different story at my first grader’s school. In my post (“The Kids are Back at School, and Healthy Changes are in the Air!”), I explained how the new Student/Parent Handbook had a clause asking parents to bring in something a little healthier than cupcakes and cookies for birthday celebrations and classroom parties. I was excited, but I also know that many parents don’t read the handbook that closely. So I was even happier when my son’s teacher sent the following note home to parents on Friday:
“We are choosing as a school to cut back on sugar as the latest research shows that our culture pushes sugar and there could be many detrimental effects over the long term. If we have multiple birthdays during any given month, we will celebrate all of them on the same day. I will contact parents so they can communicate what each child may want to share for a healthy snack. We encourage fruits, vegetables, popcorn and pretzels. Thanks for supporting us.”
Ok, so now the question is, what to bring? Many parents are open to (and even happy about) the idea of cutting back on cupcakes. But I can’t quite imagine showing up at school with a plate of plain apple slices. So I’ve compiled a list of 18 fun and healthy snack ideas for school parties to get everyone started. I provided a similar list to my 4-year-old twins’ preschool director, who passed it along to parents in the school’s back-to-school packet. I hope to do the same in the healthy newsletter that will be produced each month at my son’s elementary school (via our new Wellness Committee).
Healthy treats for birthdays and classroom parties
* Popcorn cups: Have your child help decorate plain 12-oz. paper cups with stickers, glitter glue or even his photo, and then fill with homemade popcorn. Alternatively, decorate small paper bags or purchase movie theater-style popcorn boxes or bags.
* Yogurt parfaits: In clear plastic cups, alternate layers of your child’s favorite yogurt and fresh fruit such as blueberries, strawberries or mangos. Top with a cupcake topper. (And don’t forget spoons!).
* Mini muffins: Carrot, blueberry and banana are all great choices. Use all or part whole-wheat flour or add ground flaxseeds for a nutritional boost.
* Banana bread: Cut in slices like cake, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with fruit salad.
* Pear bread: Perfect for a fall party; slice up some fresh pears and add a few to each plate.I made it with white whole wheat flour and vegetable oil. With 2 cups of sugar, it tastes more like cake than bread. I’d reduce the amount of sugar next time and add more pears.
* Chocolate zucchini bread: Don’t try to hide the fact that there’s zucchini in here! Instead, let your child (carefully!) help grate it, then bring in a whole zucchini for the class to see, touch and smell. I was naughty and added chocolate chips to this recipe; it’s for a party, after all.
* Fresh fruit served in cupcake wrappers, waffle cones or waffle bowls.
* Guacamole: Mash avocado, squeeze on fresh lime juice, then mix in chopped tomatoes, diced red onions and a smattering of sea salt. Serve with multigrain chips and veggie sticks (celery, carrots and red peppers).
* Berries with fresh whipped cream: Take individual clear plastic glasses and fill half way with any mixture of strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. Top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.
* Fruit kabobs with vanilla yogurt dip: Pick your child’s favorite fruits—strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, kiwi, grapes,and melon, for example—and assemble colorful fruit kabobs. Serve with vanilla yogurt dipping sauce.
* Magic fruit wands: Similar to fruit kabobs but made to look like a magic wand, with a whimsical star fruit at the top.
* Homemade fruit roll-ups: No corn syrup or artificial food coloring; just pure fruit, the way it should be. While the prep is quick, it will take hours for these to set–so leave plenty of time. And do a test batch ahead of time just in case.
* Cinnamon tortillas with fruit salsa: Take wheat flour tortillas and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle the tortillas with cinnamon sugar; cut each tortilla into 8 wedges and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until crisp. For the fruit salsa, pick any combination of your kid’s favorite fruits—apples, strawberries, kiwis, pineapple and blackberries all work well—dice and mix with a little sugar and lime juice. Serve salsa in mini plastic cups or bowls with the tortilla chips on the side on paper plates for dipping.
* Frozen yogurt tubes served with fresh fruit
* Strawberries and Cream Elves: Strawberries filled with a dab of cream cheese mixed with fruit spread and chocolate chip eyes. Too cute for words!
* Yogurt parfait bar: Serve vanilla or strawberry yogurt in cups. Set out toppings such as fresh berries, bananas, granola and shredded unsweetened coconut.
*Dark-chocolate dipped strawberries
* Pizza Pretzel Bites: Yes, it’s pizza–but at least it packs some nutrition, especially if paired with a tomato marinara dipping sauce.
Ideas for non-food celebrations
Not every party has to involve food! Consider talking to your child’s teacher about other ways to celebrate student birthdays, such as:
* Bring in his favorite game or book or a special art project to share with his class.
* Put together a “goody bag” of non-edible treats such as glow sticks, balloons, stickers, tattoos, etc.
*Make him or her line leader or star student or getting some sort of special privilege for the day.
Do you have any fun, creative and healthy food ideas for school parties? Please share them in the comments section below!