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Siblings eating strawberries

Healthy Ideas for Entertaining

Nicole Brigham, RD

Last month my son turned one! His birthday was a bittersweet day for me and my husband, but it was also an exciting milestone. Our baby had transformed into a curious and active little boy, and we had survived our first year of parenthood! It definitely called for a celebration, and I took on the party planning like I was preparing for my wedding all over again. I decided that we were going to have a little man-themed party full of bow ties and mustaches.

I began preparing with all the fun DIY projects and a cute, little-man menu full of manly treats—mini hamburgers, bow-tie pasta salad, hotdogs, and other not-so-nutritious foods. In an effort to stick to the theme and come up with a crowd-pleasing menu, though, I realized that I had neglected to put together a menu that I would actually feel good about my family and guests eating. I have spent the last year working so hard to make sure my little man’s diet is full of healthy foods, and I realized that I was about to teach him that having fun at a party involved veering away from our nutritional values. No way! I wanted to show him that healthy foods can be fun too. So, I shifted gears and put together a healthy, kid-friendly party menu that still stuck to the theme. It turned out to be a hit!

Here is a list of some fun and healthy party foods that kids of all ages can enjoy:

  • Homemade chicken fingers or fish sticks with dipping sauces*
  • Mini sandwiches made with whole wheat bread – use cookie cutters to create fun shapes
  • Mini pizzas made on whole wheat English muffins – for older kids this can be a fun party activity, just have bowls of pizza topping ready and let the kids build their own!
  • Fresh veggies with dipping sauces*
  • Fruit skewers
  • Cheddar crackers and graham crackers packed in pre-portioned baggies as party favors
  • Kale chips or apple chips
  • Black bean and portabella sliders
  • Frozen treats (for summer parties) – popsicles can be made easily with 100% fruit juice and fruit chunks, freeze in paper cups
  • Healthier dessert options – fruit muffins instead of cupcakes, black bean brownies, carrot cake, zucchini bread

*Some of my favorite dipping sauces are low fat ranch, salsa, guacamole, honey mustard, ketchup, hummus, bean dip, melted cheese and yogurt. Keep in mind that food combinations and sauces that may seem strange to you can be yummy to a child! Let them explore, be creative and have fun with dipping.

Birthday parties and other celebrations throughout the year are such a special time for children, and these events don’t have to center around unhealthy junk foods and sweets. Instead, with a little creativity and party planning you can put together a fun and healthy menu both children and adults will love! Happy party planning!

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