Healthy Alternatives for School Birthday Treats

Chow on 09.16.11
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Photo: Fabio Cardoso/Corbis

My daughter, Lilia, will be turning 2 at the end of this month.  She also just started preschool two mornings a week, and I have been thinking about ways to help her and her classmates celebrate her special day. The school is peanut-free and as a registered dietitian, I want to make sure she brings healthy (but yummy) treats.

Because childhood obesity is on the rise, it is crucial that we do not always (or ever!) use sweets as a reward.  Sweets have become the norm, not the exception. That is not to say we cannot celebrate with sweets, but since there are so many birthday celebrations in school classrooms these days, it may be wise to limit the sweet treats.  School is a great place for kids to learn the value of making healthy food choices.

Here are some ideas for helping kids birthdays go with a bang without resorting to the cup cakes.

Suggestions for Non-Food Birthday Treats

How about bringing a surprise for the classroom or for each child that is not a food. What a novel idea, right? Who said we had to spoil our kids with candy, cupcakes, and soda on their birthdays?

  1. Donate one of your child's favorite books to the classroom.  You can write their names and birthday on the inside cover, so the book will always be a representation of that special day.
  2. Hand out small tokens like scented pencils, stickers, or erasers to each student.
  3. Talk to your child's teacher about special treatment for the day, like extra recess or a fun game or craft project.
  4. Bring in a balloon for each child to take home.
  5. Allow the child to be the teacher's assistant for the day.
  6. Create a special "Birthday Book" where each student can write something or draw a picture about the birthday boy or girl.
  7. Give the child a special birthday box with a sash to wear and a certificate.

Healthy Food Birthday Treats (or Healthier)

  1. Fruit Kabobs: Put a variety of colorful fruits on a kabob stick and use yogurt as a dip. Here are some great fruit recipes.
  2. Frozen Fruit Bars:  You can make your own frozen smoothie or 100% juice bars.
  3. Yogurt Parfait:  Add yogurt, fruit, and granola to a fun cup and the kids will love it.
  4. Low-fat Homemade Rice Krispie Treats:  Use low-fat butter
  5. Yogurt Covered Pretzels or Raisins; If your school is peanut-free, make sure to check the packaging.
  6. Jello Topped with Fat-Free Whipped Cream
  7. Baked Potato Chips: Make your own roasted root chips with olive oil.

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