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Have a Fun and Healthful Birthday Party

Contributors: Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD

Reviewers: Academy Nutrition Information Services Team

Published: November 06, 2019

Reviewed: March 19, 2024

 LSOphoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Follow these tips to provide a fun and delicious party spread that also is healthful.

  1. Make it fun. Presentation is everything when serving party foods. It helps to include a variety of colors and make eating a hands-on experience. Try cutting finger foods, such as mini sandwiches or melon, into fun shapes using cookie cutters, serving kebabs and providing dips and other interactive foods to keep kids engaged.
  2. Choose nutritious time-saving foods. When it comes to quick-and-easy options, go for air-popped popcorn, whole-grain tortilla chips with salsa, bean dip or guacamole, or whole-wheat pita bread with hummus. Toss together a simple trail mix made with whole-grain cereal, nuts and dried fruit for an energizing mix of complex carbohydrates and protein. If you are serving a meal at your child’s party, consider ordering from a local restaurant as many cater and can provide a balanced spread. Some ideas: tacos, sub-style or mini sandwiches and baked chicken nuggets.
  3. Build a colorful fruit and vegetable tray. Aim for a variety of colors and textures on fruit and vegetable trays. Try combining watermelon slices, tangerines, grape tomatoes, baby carrots, steamed and chilled green beans and cauliflower florets. Including a variety of colors ensures kids are getting a range of nutrients. Serve with hummus, ranch or yogurt dip.
  4. Include a filling main event. For a protein-packed finger food, prepare mini meatballs with lean ground beef or turkey. Serve on toothpicks with a tomato-based sauce for dipping. Or have a homemade pizza party and turn the food prep into a party activity — kids like to eat what they create. Make do-it-yourself personal pizzas using whole-wheat English muffins or pita bread for crust. Provide lower-sodium marinara sauce, low-fat cheese, turkey pepperoni and plenty of fresh vegetables.
  5. Serve a hydrating drink. Instead of soda or other sweetened beverages, serve fruit juice mixed with sparkling water for a bubbly drink with less sugar, or try infusing water with fresh fruit, such as strawberries, oranges or lemons.
  6. Be smart with sweet treats. Serve mini-cupcakes or serve each child individually, rather than leaving sweets out for the taking. Nutrient-dense options include fruit- or yogurt-based popsicles.
  7. After the party goodies. Take-away goodie bags are common at children's birthday parties. Incorporate some of following items for fun goodie bags:
    • Fruit cups in their own juices or unsweetened applesauce
    • Tangerines
    • Single-serving boxes of lightly sweetened whole-grain cereal
    • Snack-size, shelf-stable, fat-free pudding
    • 100% fruit leather
    • Non-food items such as pencils, art supplies and outdoor games

With these tips, you can make the next birthday party an opportunity to teach your child that eating healthfully can be fun — and delicious.

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