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 Honest Kids.

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?

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18 Responses to “Healthy Treats for Class Celebrations”

  1. eila @ the full plate blog

    I have a few picture/ingredient posts to add, that have been hits in my children’s classes:

    we made a “heart” trail mix for Valentine’s Day:

    and some mini red fruit skewers:

    a bunch more ideas can he found under the snack heading on my blog, the full plate:

  2. Kelly

    Although not sugar free the recipe you had for vegan chocolate cake on a pan (made into cupcakes) was a big hit at preschool this Valentine’s Day party. It also allowed several children with allergies to actually enjoy a treat. I didn’t frost them or anything although sent powdered sugar which a few spread on. Will use this again as much healthier than boxed and a great alternative. Thanks.

  3. Jennifer

    I make parfaits with yogurt and cheerios my daughter loves them.

  4. Ximena

    Thank you Aviva! I will share this page with our school and hope that parents will get some healthy inspiration 🙂
    By the way, I like the idea of yogurt and fruit in ice-cream cones.

  5. Ella McDaniel

    I would add chocolate-dipped bananas to the strawberries at the top of the list– it was my favorite treat as a kid, and it’s less juicy so might be easier to clean up in a classroom. I love the idea of cheese on a fruit kabob! The savory would absolutely accent the sweet.

  6. Lawyer Wrongful Death

    Those all look delicious! As a parent myself sometimes it can be hard to have my daughter eat healthy things but I think I’m going to have to give some of these recipes a go!

  7. Emily

    I wish my daughter’s school allowed homemade treats. Buying healthy snacks that are ready to eat can be pricey! My go-to affordable store bought treat to bring is a box of satsumas.

  8. Lisa

    My son’s school doesn’t allow any homemade treats, either. But we all do contribute 1 day a month for afternoon snacks (not just birthdays), and a number of the items on the list can be store-bought. I can even see how something a little more complicated – like a fruit & yogurt parfait – might be assembled in class, by the kids, for a class party. Thanks for the list! 🙂

  9. LR

    Great ideas. However, food allergies, sensitivities (like celiacs), & intolerances are on the rise. Instead of taking the time to form the kabobs yourself, save the fun for the kids. Keep each ingredient separate, w/ its own serving utensil, and have an adult serve it. This will allow kids to avoid the kabob ingredients that make them sick, including cross contamination. Top 8 food allergies: peanuts, tree nuts (almond), milk/dairy, wheat, eggs, fish, shellfish. Granola usually has gluten&nuts.

    • Venus

      Making their own kabobs at a birthday party would be great fun. It won’t work at school though – they don’t have enough time.

  10. Jodi

    Personally, I’d rather have my kids have sugar than the silly straws, stickers, bubbles & all the other cheap plastic made-in-an-Asian-sweatshop junk that was shipped halfway around the world just to end up broken in a landfill in about a day. Same goes for party favors. Love the fruit skewers, muffins, etc., though.

  11. TJ

    As a teacher I ask you to keep in mind that some of the suggested ideas are time consuming. I always tell my parents a birthday treat should be quick to serve, eat, and clean up. Also, if doing the fruit kebobs (which have been a hit with my KGers), please remember to cut off the pointy end of the skewer. Just a thought!

  12. Lou Conwell

    These sound like great ideas. Our school requires that we serve only foods that were prepared in a commercial kitchen. That leaves out quite a few of the options presented.

  13. Michelle

    Come on! As long as your kid is eating a healthy, well-balanced diet most of the time (breakfast, dinner, snacks at home. Packed lunch at school), a birthday treat that’s sugary isn’t going to kill them. Lighten up.