Healthy food for kids parties
As a mum to two boys aged two and four, I have seen my fair share of children's parties and know there will be many more. My other ‘hat' is being one of New Zealand's leading wellbeing and nutrition experts for families. It has been an ongoing challenge for me to attend children's parties where there are often so many uber-processed foods, laden in sugar and made with artificial ingredients.
I know what a difficult balance it is trying to teach children about healthy eating while still allowing them to enjoy some treats. I believe the biggest challenge is trying to change social norms of kids' parties. For some reason having a multitude of highly processed foods packed full of sugar and not many other options seems very accepted. But I have some simple ideas and alternatives to help keep sugar low and add some extra goodness to more traditional party foods - while still keeping things festive and fun.
Did you know that orange juice has nearly the same amount of sugar as fizzy drinks? Even our Ministry of Health Guidelines advise giving children diluted juice. Choosing a juice with reduced sugar and going half and half with some soda water adds fizz but drops the sugar amount significantly. You could also make an iced herbal tea and add some strawberries or cucumber for extra flavour.
Most chocolate today is made with huge amounts of added sugar and additives. It will be really hard for some children to feel full and know when to stop eating (the same goes for lollies). Adding some healthy fat or protein to a home made chocolate type treat is a simple alternative. Check out my chocolate and date truffle recipe below - they taste like little Snickers bars but are a lot healthier.
Instead of putting focus on what you shouldn't have, get creative with some high nutrient foods. I like to offer a source of protein at any party I hold - if it is there children will try it! For example, you could try salmon on a platter, chicken nibbles or even chicken cubes on a kebab stick.
Include some vegetables as part of the main party food. Why not? You are at least providing the opportunity for children to try them in a social setting. Remember that you are feeding adults at kids' parties too, so this makes for great role modelling. I made this vegetable train for our four year old's birthday and it was such a hit and really simple to do.
This is a great alternative to a bowl of lollies. If you like, pop in a marshmallow for a bit of something more party like.
Fairy bread is very traditional at a party and I remember it from my childhood. One idea is to use wholegrain bread instead of white bread. The sprinkles are small enough that they don't give a big sugar hit, so using wholegrain will add some good nutrients. I recommend using butter instead of margarine as it is less processed.
I believe having a cake at a children's birthday party is very important - and not even a ‘healthy' cake! Instead of offering lots of treat options, have the cake as the feature of the party and savour every bite.
2 cups of pitted dates
1 cup of roasted/salted peanuts
½ cup of dessicated coconut
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp of vanilla essence
For topping (optional)
75% (plus) dark chocolate
Extra dessicated coconut
- Place dates into a bowl and cover with hot water to soften slightly
- Place all other ingredients into a food processor and prepare a plate with baking paper to place rolled truffles
- Drain the dates and place into the food processor with all other ingredients and pulse 2-3 times before blitzing until all combined
- Roll mixture into little balls. You can enjoy them as they are or place them into the fridge to cool for coating.
- Melt dark chocolate over a double boiler and dip the truffles quickly into the chocolate and place back on the baking paper. You can also sprinkle them with some extra dessicated coconut. Place back into the fridge to set the coating.
- Take out of the fridge about 10 minutes before eating and enjoy!
Dr Julie Bhosale is a wellbeing and nutrition expert, author and speaker, as well as a mother of two preschoolers. She has published her first book, Healthy Dinners for Busy Mums, and her book on bbies starting solids is due to be released in August 2017. Visit her website or follow her on Facebook or Instagram.