With classrooms holding upwards of 25 to 30 kids, birthday treats can have a surprising impact on children's health. After all, with a typical 36-week school year, kids will be served almost 1 sugary treat per week! If you were serving cake or regular cupcakes each time, then that would come to about 9,000-12,000 calories per school year... just from birthday parties!
That's too much for good health.
Make a difference by sharing a healthful and balanced treat that still appeals to kids during birthday celebrations. Here are a few guidelines...
- Desserts should have fewer than 100 calories.
- The treat should be something that parents can make quickly.
- Kids will actually want to eat it.
- The treat can’t make too much mess.
Plus, according to the article New Rules May Curb Classroom Cupcakes from the New York Times...
The federal government is stepping in to help address the issue of classroom food. Federal school nutrition rules from the Department of Agriculture approved this past summer now require school districts participating in federal lunch or breakfast programs to come up with a nutritional standard for all foods and drinks offered to children at school, including those served by parents at classroom parties and treats awarded by teachers as prizes for a correct answer.
As the article explains, these rules won't go into effect until the 2017-2018 school year, but they're still worth exploring, and we might as well get prepared now.
So here are 4 different treats that fit the guidelines outlined above...
- Rice Krispies Bowl - 90 calories each ($3.99 for 16 of them)
Arrange the packaged rice krispies in a bowl and unwrap one, placing it in the center. Decorate the unwrapped piece with frosting and a candle for a treat that's easy to serve.
- Dip Me Sheet - 60 calories per serving ($12 for cookies and fruit) Place a variety of fruits, caramel dip, and vanilla wafers in an attractive square pan. Decorate with balloon candles.
- Newton’s Fruit Cake - 85 calories for a cookie with fruit ($12 for cookies, fruit) Place cookies around the outside of a pan and fill it with dried or fresh fruits. Add sprinkles and then adhere 8 candles to the tops of the cookies with frosting.
- Rice Cookie Cake and Fruit - 50 calories per serving ($5 for rice cakes and berries) Arrange them in bowls and garnish a few with frosting and candles – yummy!
If you were to replace birthday cake with these sweet treats, then you would save about 8,000 calories per child per school year, which is quite a bit.
Quick Tip: Use candles, sprinkles and decorator’s frosting for a fun, festive touch. It's best to offer a variety of cookies and fruit. After all, even if you had the perfect ice cream cake there will be a few kids who would still manage to have a gripe with it. Children generally love a choice.
Bonus Idea: Cut layers of cake out of a melon and decorate it with grapes and berries on skewers.
This idea would make a great presentation in schools or for parents. You could also do a cooking demonstration with a few of the desserts outlined above. The sky's the limit!
Here's a helpful handout with a few tips and tricks from the post...
And here are a few more food art resources...
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.