Happy Birthday To You

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DSC 4637 Happy Birthday To You

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)

DSC 4637 Happy Birthday To You

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.

DSC 4649 Happy Birthday To You

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.

DSC 4645 Happy Birthday To You

Rice Krispies Bowl - the easy way out - arrange these in a bowl and garnish the middle one with frosting, sprinkles and a candle.

DSC 4655 Happy Birthday To You

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:

Nutrition Education Materials for Kids, Families, Schools

and for Nutrition Month - the theme this year is colors - what a great way to celebrate that, too. Here are more materials:



Nutrition Month Education Materials

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