As a firm believer in the power of healthy foods, I have often been concerned about kids eating too many sweets at school. When Solomon and Celia were in preschool, if the teacher gave them a cookie and juice, or if a parent or caregiver brought in cupcakes to celebrate a child’s birthday, their little bellies would be full for hours, and they would come home uninterested in lunch or healthy snacks.
I felt it was important to make the majority of their snacks nutritious so they would have the fuel they needed to grow and play. Sometimes I felt like I was swimming against the tide, as most of the teachers, parents, and even the preschool director at the time were surprised when I voiced my concerns.
Since there are so many healthy snacks that kids love, it’s easier than many people think to come up with healthier foods to celebrate special holidays or birthdays. That’s why I was excited to receive this note through the Kitchen Explorers website from Ximena Cardoso-Sloane of Round Rock, Texas:
“Dear Alice and Aviva, Our school, Brushy Creek Elementary in Round Rock, Texas, is encouraging parents to send in healthier birthday snacks to share with the classes. Will you please give me ideas? It doesn’t have to be sweet; it could be fun and savory. Thank you!”
I am delighted to share this list of ideas with Ximena and other parents who are struggling with new school policies for healthier classroom foods or who are anxious to limit sweets and junk food in children’s diets. I hope you’ll add your own ideas in the comments below to augment my list:
1. Chocolate dipped strawberries
2. Fruit and yogurt parfaits with mini chocolate chips and and store-bought or homemade granola.
3. Popcorn (homemade or store-bought and low salt)
4. Healthy granola bars
5. Graham crackers
6. Muffins or breads, such as banana, pumpkin, corn, or zucchini (you can make a healthy batch and freeze them)
7. Apple slices with honey (delicious but a little sticky)
8. Dried fruit like raisins, apricots, prunes
9. 100% fruit roll ups
10. Animal crackers
11. Squeezable yogurt or apple sauce
12. Fruit Kabobs (cut fruit on a stick and dipped in vanilla yogurt, or alternate strawberries, grapes, and cheddar or Colby cheese cubes)
13. Pure fruit popsicles (homemade or store-bought, bring in a cooler)
14. Ice cream cone or waffle bowl filled with yogurt or whipped cream and chopped fruit
15. Bananas and/or strawberries with semi-sweet chocolate chips or chocolate syrup (let kids slice the bananas with plastic knife)
16. Cereals that contains whole grains and are low in sugar
17. Trail mix (made from things like dried fruits, pretzels, mini chocolate chips and nuts)
18. String cheese
**Find out from your child’s teacher if any kids in the class have food allergies that you need to work around.
Supplement the snack with water, low-fat milk or with reduced-sugar drinks like
Another idea is to stay away completely from bringing in food, which has the added advantage of not leaving any children who have food allergies out of the fun. Kids love non-food items like bubbles, stickers, tattoos, erasers, silly straws, and mini cans of Play Doh.
For more on healthy class celebrations, visit these resources:
Yale Rudd Center
Center for Science in the Public Interest
What are your favorite healthy ways to celebrate holidays and birthdays in classrooms?