Healthy Birthday to You!
Paring down portion sizes, limiting treats, increasing party activities
There is nothing inherently wrong with pizza, as it contains many healthy nutrients that growing kids need. But eating a slice of pizza and eating a whole pizza are two different things. Ensure birthday attendees eat reasonable portion sizes by serving the food to each child individually, or by allowing each child to take a pre-made plate of food. If you are continuing on to serve other courses, no seconds! One to two slices of pizza are more than enough for any child.
It is possible to create birthday meals that taste delicious but are still relatively healthy. Fresh fruit is always a good choice and can be served alone or as a side to other menu items. If you choose to have cake, choose angel food cake and top it with fresh fruit and Cool Whip for a delicious, low-calorie treat. Another option for cake is to serve cupcakes, which will greatly reduce the overall amount of cake consumed. Again, topping them with Cool Whip is a low-calorie option for frosting, and letting the kids spread it on in a design of their own choosing increases the fun. And who said you need to have ice cream in addition to cake? You don’t. Avoid having unlimited amounts of sugared drinks available—instead provide milk, water, or limited amounts of low-sugar or no-sugar drinks such as Crystal-Light.
Here is an example of an appropriate birthday party meal for young children:
- 1 to 2 glasses of milk
- 1 slice of cheese pizza
- carrots and celery sticks with ranch dip
- sliced apples
- cupcake or a small piece of birthday cake for dessert.
That’s it! Kids don’t need any more food than that.
One enterprising parent we know offered to exchange money for the candy her child brought home from birthday parties (she also used this tactic for Halloween), to prevent him from eating it. Now that’s capitalism at its finest! Set the rates carefully, of course, or an enterprising child could recognize an arbitrage opportunity, reinvest the payments in additional sugary assets for resale, and quickly break the parental bank account. Although frankly, if they are so inclined it’s probably not a bad thing to encourage such tendencies. Isn’t that how Warren Buffett got started?
Focus on Fun, not Food
Kids go to birthday parties to have fun, not to gorge themselves. Don’t make food a reward. If you play games and want to give out prizes, use toys or other fun giveaways, not candy. You can find cheap and fun prizes at the dollar store. If you don’t make unhealthy food available, but combine reasonable nourishment with opportunities to have fun with the other children, we promise you the kids won’t even notice. And they’ll actually be able to get to sleep when they come home at night.
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