How to host a birthday party for children that is healthy from start to finish including a tasty cake, low sugar drinks, healthy food and fun activities.
A big challenge as a parent is planning a birthday party for your child that is fun and treat-filled and yet still healthy. Kind of a tall order, don’t you think?
Typical birthday parties for kids include unlimited soda, chips, tasteless Walmart type cake, and lots of candy in the goodie bags. Each child probably consumes in excess of 100 grams of sugar in just a couple of hours!
Consider that only 36 grams of sugar in a 24 hour period lowers immunity by over 50% for an adult. You can imagine the hit a child’s immunity takes from a shot of sugar at a party! No wonder my kids usually have a runny nose and/or a headache within an hour or so of attending a birthday party.
However, trying to eliminate all sugar from a birthday party is not realistic, in my experience.
Balance Not Perfection
My personal goal is not to have my children live in a bubble, but to learn BALANCE.
Having treats for one’s birthday is fine, in my experience. A little sugar (as unprocessed as possible) on special occasions teaches them moderation with the treats (even homemade ones).
Exampling HOW to do this is very important.
Children remember what they see you do. And, if you eschew the processed cakes, frostings, sodas, etc for homemade versions, that while definitely sweet, also impart some nutrition, this will have an enormous impact on them later. They will also remember how much better homemade tastes!
Healthy Birthday Cake
First and most importantly, you really must make the birthday cake yourself to have any hope whatsoever that it will be healthy.
The good news is that homemade birthday cake tastes so much better than store-bought and when you make it right, it tastes great and provides nutritional value too!
I highly recommend using freshly ground flour for the birthday cake. Fresh flour has so many more nutrients than store-bought, even if organic!
Grinding flour may sound to you like something out of Little House on the Prairie, but it doesn’t have to involve much time at all.
I suggest grinding fresh flour once a month and freezing to retain nutrients. Flour doesn’t clump in the freezer so you can use it for baking straight out of a freezer bag!
Be sure to sift the flour to make it the cake nice and light.
My children usually want me to make a devil’s food cake. I simply take the conventional recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook and substitute high quality, healthy ingredients.
I recommend coconut oil for baking the cake. This healthy fat is the BEST and HEALTHIEST oil to bake with.
I use expeller pressed instead of virgin coconut oil because the virgin has a coconut taste that can compete with the flavor of the cake.
All types of coconut oil are very resistant to damage by cooking/baking and lend an amazing moistness to baked goods.
Most importantly, coconut oil is highly antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal. So it helps to COUNTERACT the immune-depressing effect of the sugar in the cake.
To some extent then, using coconut oil allows you to have your cake and eat it too (without getting sick, that is!).
The secret to making a frosting that is delicious and imparts nutrition is butter!
The butter comes from cows that graze on grass is most nutritious. You can tell from its vibrant yellow color compared to the pale butter made from the milk of confinement cows which eat grains and soy.
Try to find a local dairy farmer from whom you can purchase grassfed butter. Otherwise, many health food stores now carry brands of pastured butter for you to use.
Now that we’ve established that butter is the way to go as a basis for a nutritious, great-tasting frosting, here’s the butter frosting recipe I always use for birthday cakes. The recipe will frost tops and sides of a double layer cake (9X13 pan).
The best part is to let your child watch you make the frosting and then let them lick the bowl clean. Teaching them that eating right even at a birthday party can be fun and delicious too!
If you are unable to use butter because someone attending the party has a dairy allergy, I suggest using one of these healthy butter substitutes. Whatever you do, avoid the butter spreads from the supermarket.
For healthy party beverages, I offered a big jug of filtered water and a big jug of herbal tea (to be served over ice) for the adults.
I also typically offer a small, squeezable bottle of raw local honey for those guests who wish to sweeten their tea.
For the children, my usual choice is fresh-squeezed juice like orange or apple. Juice has fructose, but at least when it is freshly squeezed, it still retains enzymes and nutrients. Store-bought juice is basically nutritionless, even organic, or “cold-pressed” juices where the enzymes and probiotics are destroyed either by heat or high-pressure processing. Forget the juice boxes which have the additional issue of toxic packaging.
Food and Snacks
I like to serve a very simple lunch at my children’s birthday parties. An assortment of seasonal fruits goes over very well as well as a leafy green organic salad as starters. This healthy party mix is always a hit as a finger food.
I also baked up a large batch of organic, free-range chicken nuggets in expeller-pressed coconut oil and make my own sauces for dipping. Even the sauces from the health food store are typically sugared up and contain questionable ingredients like the “always to be avoided” canola oil. It’s really not that hard or time-consuming at all to make them yourself. I usually get raves on my sauces, even from the kids!
My 30-second barbeque sauce only contains 3 ingredients: organic ketchup, a drizzle of raw apple cider vinegar, and maple syrup (as little as you can get away with). I use grade B (or darker) maple syrup as it is full of many more minerals than the lighter grade A syrup. Play with the ratios yourself to see how sweet or sour you prefer it. Another variation I enjoy is this recipe for barbecue sauce that uses raw honey and soy sauce instead of the ketchup.
The other sauce I serve with the chicken nuggets is homemade honey mustard. It is simply a 50-50 mixture of raw honey and organic yellow mustard. If you will have a health-oriented party crowd, you may wish to use fermented yellow mustard instead to dial up the nutrition even more. This sauce is always a hit.
Finally, I make my own creamy homemade mayo as a dressing for the organic leafy green salad. Add a little garlic powder and it will taste just like ranch dressing.
If you don’t own a food processor to make the mayo, Fresh Market offers the brand “DeLouis” mayo from France that is basically the same recipe as above. It is expensive, but it is nice to know that you can buy it in a pinch.
There are other considerations besides food when planning a healthy birthday celebration.
The guests won’t be eating the entire time, so organizing healthy activities for the children during the party is very important.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money on this; for example, no need to rent out a bowling alley as the party venue to get the children moving!
Something as simple as reserving a shelter at a local park allows the children the space to run and play in an unstructured manner, or if they claim “boredom”, then have some organized games planned. In my experience, the Dads love to mix it up with the kids during birthday parties playing catch, soccer, or running races.
The most important thing is to get the kids moving. Use whatever you have available depending on the season and the weather.
If you live near a recreation center with sport courts or a swimming pool (see these tips for swimming in chlorinated pools safely), that would be a great place to have some activities.
We are members of our local YMCA, and after 6 pm on weekdays, our family membership allows us to bring guests to swim in the waterpark (complete with large slides) for free. One year, we had our son’s birthday party right at the YMCA waterpark – complete with a shelter to serve the food and there was no charge at all because the party was from 6-8 pm. The YMCA allows this as it is a form of free advertising to the community, so take advantage of what is available to you.
Another favorite activity we’ve used at birthday parties is the “blow up the Diet Coke” trick. All you have to do is buy a couple of 2 liter Diet Coke bottles and 2 packs of plain Mentos mints. Take all the kids out into the yard and have them stand back. .. open one of the Diet Coke bottles and quickly pour in one entire pack of Mentos.
Within a few seconds, the Diet Coke will explode many feet into the air! The kids squeal and get so excited by this. Be ready with another 2 liter Diet Coke and a second pack of Mentos for an encore performance. How better to show the kids never to drink diet drinks than to do a chemistry experiment with it right in your front yard!
This past Saturday, our son’s birthday party was held at our home and the kids jumped on the trampoline (complete with a safety net, of course) and I sprayed them with a garden hose while they rebounded.
The kids loved it and got a ton of exercise. We also have a couple of soccer goals in the front yard, so they played a soccer pick up game for a while as well.
Need more ideas? This article on a grain-free GAPS style birthday party has even more suggestions.