A few weeks ago I was at a kid’s birthday party, watching my kiddo eat cake with red and blue icing, an electric-blue frozen treat made from candy, fruit juice, and a goody bag stuffed with taffy, mini candy bars, and a cookie.
One of the other parents, who knows about our healthy family food book, asked, “Doesn’t this bother you?” pointing in the direction of the table full of screaming kids.
“It’s the 20 percent,” I answered. “The 20 percent of my child’s diet that I don’t get to control. It’s my job to try and make the other 80 percent good stuff.”
So what makes up that dismissible 20 percent? Birthday parties, school events, play dates, times when your family members insist on bestowing your kids with treats. I'm OK with that. My daughter should be able to indulge in an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. What I'm not okay with is peeling my sugar-crazed kid off the ceiling after she gets a whole week’s worth of junk food in one sitting.
Sound familiar? Follow these survival tactics for birthday parties.
When attending another child’s birthday party:
1. Be sure your child eats a healthy meal before the event and does not go hungry to the party.
2. Limit the juice or sugary foods you serve to help balance the extra treats he’ll be eating later in the day.
3. For a late-afternoon event, give your child a healthy snack before heading out.
4. Try to have your child focus on the non-candy items in a goody bag, and save the additional candy for another day.
5. Relax. If you're consistently working toward a healthy diet for your child, events like this will be the exception, not the rule. Over-restricting foods may have the opposite effect on your child and make her want these items more, not less.
When hosting a birthday party, other parents will be grateful if you:
1. Serve only water or milk as beverage options instead of juice---especially juices loaded with sugar.
2. Avoid artificial dyes and additives as much as possible. Research suggests these additives can increase hyperactivity in some children.
3. Offer kids a cheese stick or other form of protein alongside a sugary food. Protein intake with carbohydrates can help moderate a spike in blood sugar. Serve healthy treats like fresh berries instead of ice cream before the cake.
4. Serve smaller portions of cake or cupcakes than you'd serve adults. Ask your local bakery if they offer petite-sized cupcakes for kids.
5. Center the party entertainment on physical activity, like a group gymnastics session or outdoor games.
6. Give candy-free goody bags. Think: markers and coloring pages, bubbles, stickers, sidewalk chalk, bouncy balls, a small cardboard puzzle, and more.
So, what are your tips for attending and giving a healthier kids’ party?