My daughter's school principal is requesting ideas for alternative snacks for parents to send to school to celebrate their child's birthday, rather than the usual cake/brownies, etc. Do you have any handouts/suggestions that I could use?
-- Mary Therese Maslanka, RD, LDN, Registered and Licensed Dietitian, Mount Prospect, IL
We must admit, this is probably one of the most useful questions we have had the privilege to answer. We know all too well about the nutritional dangers of children's menus, party food and snacks that are laden with fat and sugar. Plus we just finished a show about the alarming statistics of childhood obesity. We worked with Mary to come up with a few rules so the creations are good for everyone:
- fewer than 100 calories
- parents can make it quickly
- kids want to eat it
- can't make too much mess for the classroom/teachers
That is a tall order!
But we did come up with some creative ideas that we wanted to share below.
- Rice Krispies Treat - 90 calories
- Fig newton (1) - 45 calories
- Vanilla wafer (1) - 18 calories
- Mini rice cake (1) - 10 calories
- Fruit, fresh (1/2 cup) - 40 calories
4 different presentations:
- Rice Krispies Bowl - 90 calories each ($3.99 for 16 of them)
- Newton's Fruit Cake (Fig Newton and fruit) - 85 calories cookie/fruit ($12 for cookies, fruit)
- Dip Me Sheet - 60 calories for cookie/fruit serving ($12 for cookies and fruit)
- Rice Cookie Cake and Fruit - 50 calories cookie/fruit ($5 for rice cakes and berries)
Newton's Fruit Cake - place cookies around the outside of the pan and fill with dried or fresh fruits. Add sprinkles and then adhere 8 candles to the tops of the cookies with frosting.
Dip Me Sheet - place a variety of fruits, caramel dip and vanilla wafers in an attractive square pan. Decorate with balloon candles held in place with styrofoam.
Rice Krispies Bowl - the easy way out - arrange these in a bowl and garnish the middle one with frosting, sprinkles and a candle.
Rice Cakes and Fruit - arrange them in bowls and garnish a few with frosting and candles - yummy!
- Use candles, sprinkles and decorator's frosting for fun festive touch.
- It is best to offer a variety of cookies and fruit - even if you had the perfect ice cream cake there are kids who don't like that - they always love a choice so everyone finds something they like.
- If parents unite, this will become the norm.
- As our reader pointed out, some of the classes have 23-30 students, so with 36 weeks of school, that is almost 1 sugar-laden treat per week! If you were serving cake or regular cupcakes each time, that is about 9,000-12,000 calories per school year from birthday parties! Ours ring in at about 2,500 calories and this saves, on average, about 8,000 calories per child.
This message is brought to you by our Nutrition Education Store - find great educational ideas for kids and schools here:
and for Nutrition Month - the theme this year is colors - what a great way to celebrate that, too. Here are more materials:
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.