Healthy Parties for Kids

Healthy Parties for Kids

Worried about how all that cake and ice cream are affecting your kids? Here are some ways to cut back the calories without cutting back the fun.

By Gregg Newby, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth

You're trying to promote healthier eating habits for your kids. But between birthday parties and holiday or seasonal school parties, near constant celebrations can add up to a whole lot of excess sugar and calories. Sadly, poor eating habits are putting kids at risk for obesity and other health problems.

The truth is, healthier parties and celebrations don't happen by themselves. Be proactive. Talk with other parents and teachers, most of whom may likely share your concerns. Many schools are even putting restrictions on what types of foods can be brought into the classroom.

Check out the following creative ideas for cutting back the calories without cutting out the fun:

Make substitutions. If you are celebrating a birthday, go ahead and serve cake! But keep sugary snacks to a minimum, and give the kids healthier eating options. Remember, they can only eat sweets if you put them out. So why not serve something else instead? Kids will happily snack on more wholesome foods when they're available. Try:

  • Cups of applesauce or fresh fruit
  • Bowls of low-fat popcorn
  • Trail mix with natural ingredients
  • Fruit kebobs
  • Colorful veggie tray with low-fat ranch dip
  • Whole-grain chips and salsa
  • Low-fat chocolate or vanilla pudding
  • Apple slices with yogurt
  • Homemade mini muffins
  • Fruit juice instead of soda
  • Low-fat yogurt parfaits instead of ice cream
  • Angel food cake with berries or low-fat whipped topping

Emphasize fun over food. Kids generally overeat at a party when there's nothing else to do. That's why it's important to plan a few activities ahead of time. Activities allow them to burn off some of the calories they're consuming.

If the weather is nice, take them outside for a game of freeze-tag or hide-and-seek. When it's nasty, plan an indoor activity that takes the focus away from food.

  • Have a scavenger hunt around the house or classroom.
  • Put on music and have a dance party.
  • Play charades or another indoor game.
  • Set aside some time for a special craft or activity.

Do them a favor. Kids often leave a party with bags of cookies or other sweet treats. But you can just as easily send them home with zero-calorie favors that won't add inches to their waistlines. Here are some suggestions:

  • Crayons or colored pencils
  • Notepads and erasers
  • Colorful shoelaces
  • Plastic bracelets or barrettes
  • Peel-off tattoos
  • Soap bubbles
  • Other age-appropriate, inexpensive toys

Work together. It's hard to plan a healthy party if you don't get other parents on board. Just remember to be diplomatic about it. Don't try to take over someone else's party. Instead, call and offer to bring a healthy dish or lead an activity.

Lastly, remember to be realistic. Cake and ice cream is still OK from time to time. The goal is to keep them from becoming a feature of every party, not to cut them out completely. If you can do that, the kids will have more than just a good time. They'll be learning about making healthier choices. And that will make for healthier bodies both now and as they grow.


  • Action for Healthy Kids. School parties: putting the health into fun. Accessed: 08/20/2010
  • Center for Science in the Public Interest. Healthy school celebrations. Accessed: 08/20/2010
  • Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Healthy school parties. Accessed: 08/20/2010
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nutrition and the health of young people. Accessed: 08/20/2010

Copyright © 2011 myOptumHealth.