In an effort to reduce unrefined sugar and dyes so prevalent at birthday parties, we tried some alternative sweets. While I do appreciate the celebratory sentiment behind serving sweets kids’ birthday parties, I wondered if we could stray away from unrefined sugars. This is in an effort to teach my kids how to minimize habits that contribute to the rising rate of childhood obesity/diabetes, yet keep the bonding experience of a party.
Or would I have a full rebellion on my hands?
My own child recently had a birthday, and I wanted to try to find a balance – something that would be fun AND nutritious. Could such a party exist?
- 37 kids at our house with my husband out of town (yes I am insane)
- Most kids were between 3-6 years old
- Outside – if we had fair weather (we did, thank GOD)
- 1:30 p.m. (not a meal time – only snacks to be served)
I took the advice of a European mom who was shocked by all the sweets consumed at American parties, and decided to go heavy on the fruits and play. Fruits are sweet, and unlike candy, contain vitamins. I evaluated the major “sweets times” during birthday parties and deliberated on what could be substituted. I also made sure I had appealing and healthy snacks for the adults (including the vegans). Then I took a look at the gift bags and festivities to make sure they were equally nutritious and entertaining.
I substituted a regular cake with watermelon cake, using a creative and tasty Facebook recipe I found. Not only is this recipe delicious, but also very simple to make.
1 seedless watermelon
(Optional) 1 or 2 boxes Tru-Whip (exactly like Cool Whip but healthier. It does not contain gluten, high fructose corn syrup, and is 70% organic.)
Coconut-toasted almonds (optional)
Preparation and Directions
- Cut watermelon into desired shapes and sizes. If it is a large watermelon, you may consider cutting it into small pieces to keep it rounder and more manageable. I chose to do two circular “cakes”, but feel free to carve whatever you like!
- Hull the melon.
- (Optional) Cover the outside of watermelon with Tru-Whip (use like “frosting” the “cake”).
- Sprinkle “cake” with coconut-toasted almonds (optional -image below shows an option with and without).
- Top with seasonal fruits.
- Serve and enjoy!
- If you find your watermelon is “lopsided”, use fruit as filler. As you can see, I left mine a bit trapezoidal.
- If you are like me and not super-crafty, I recommend keeping the cake circular and the fruit pattern symmetrical.
Fruit Bowl/Rainbow Salad
This recipe is fairly self-explanatory, but I included some helpful tips. For the rainbow effect, use fruits of varying color. Since I knew I needed a lot of fruit, I headed down to our lovely SC State Farmer’s Market and bought in bulk. Please keep in mind prices vary by season! (I bought these in March.)
90 bananas for $8 from Seivert’s*
8 pints strawberries for $2 (total, 0.50 each) from Rawl’s
60 yellow Navel seedless oranges for $15 from Seivert’s*
Carton of blueberries from Wal-Mart
Excess watermelon from the watermelon cake
* Note: About half the bananas and oranges went to the gift bags.
Preparation and Directions
- Peel bananas and cut into bite size pieces. Place in large bowl.
- Wash and remove stems from strawberries. Cut into bite size pieces. Place in large bowl.
- Peel navel oranges and separate into pieces. Place in large bowl.
- Wash blueberries. Place in large bowl.
- Cut excess watermelon into bite size pieces. Place in large bowl.
- Mix all fruit together, creating a “rainbow” effect.
This bowl was sufficient to feed 14 families, with a small bit left over. (Quickly demolished by my fruit vacuums, aka “sons”)
In addition to fruit and the watermelon cake, I also wanted to make sure there were healthy (and hearty) snacks available to the guests. I made black beans and rice for my vegan friends and curry-coconut chicken (see recipe below).
Package of chicken
can of coconut milk
a spoonful of mild curry
Preparation and Directions
Dump chicken, can of coconut milk, a spoonful of mild curry
To avoid total mutiny of the kids, I did put a little bit of chocolate in the piñata. This turned out well as the older kids were much more likely to choose the chocolate over the toys. The younger siblings who attended didn’t have to surrender their candy to their concerned parents, thus avoiding potential melt-downs. The little ones were very content with Chinese yo-yo’s, slinkies, and crayons.
I chose to put two types of unpeeled fruit, oranges and bananas, into the gift bags. I also added Chinese yo-yo’s (left over from what I bought for the piñata). In addition, the kids were able to add all their “spoils” from the piñata to their gift bags.
What made me most nervous about this “non-traditional” gift bag was “kid compliance”. In my adult brain, it looked woefully boring compared to the gift bag you would receive at other birthday parties. However, many kids insisted on eating their banana and/or orange before leaving. Parents were happy about the healthier treats. All went well, despite my trepidation.
Activities and Atmosphere
The weather stayed in the mid-70s and clear. The adults sat in a big circle, accompanied by my nosy twins, while the kids played on our backyard play equipment and in a grassy corner where lots of wild violets were blossoming. It was very relaxed, very pleasant, and full of laughter.
- Surprisingly excellent!
- 100% of the parents were “very happy”
- 36/37 of the children were happy despite the lack of candy and unrefined sugar present. The one that was unhappy was an older child that was frustrated from losing his chocolate from the piñata
- Multiple classmates requested “more watermelon cake” over the next few months. One even wanted it for their own party.
- My son was very happy with his party, so I count this as a success!
What suggestions do you have for hosting a nutritious (and fun) birthday party?