Guest post by Christine Hradek, State Nutrition Specialist for ISU Extension and Outreach
Let’s party! What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?
For many of us it is getting some yummy food and drinks together for the celebration. Halloween is in just a couple of weeks and this is a time when many of us have far more junk food around for us and our kids than we even want. There are a lot of things we can do to try to make celebrations more about fun with friends and family than junk food.
One place to start is with school celebrations. Many classrooms celebrate every child’s birthday plus all holidays with cupcakes, pizza parties or treat exchanges. This can add up to thirty or more celebrations per school year! With so many celebrations, it often does not even feel like a special occasion anymore.
No one is interested in denying a child a cupcake on their birthday, but it is possible to show kids how to celebrate these occasions without so much unhealthy food. Here are some tips for helping your child’s class have a healthy celebration, but the same tips apply to celebrations and birthday parties at home.
- Start by talking to the teacher and offering to help organize a party this year or get a group of parents together who are willing to serve as a party-planning committee. You can take it one step further and work on an addition to the school wellness policy related to parties.
- Make the party about fun, not just food. Think about games, crafts and adventures for the kids to enjoy.
- Play your way! Hold your party at the playground or create a scavenger hunt for the kids to do so the focus is on active play. Offer a free period when the students choose what they would like to do or the class plays its favorite game together.
- Choose prizes and favors that are not food-related. These can be crafts or small toys the kids can take home with them.
Encourage parents to provide tasty snacks that are also healthy:
- Apple slices with cinnamon sprinkled on them
- Vegetables with low-fat dip
- String cheese or yogurt
- Trail mix with whole grain cereal and pretzels
- Whole grain crackers
- Make-your-own fruit and yogurt parfait cups
- Water or 100% juice in place of high-sugar beverages like punch or sports drinks
Some Halloween candy is fine and part of the fun of this time of year, but with these tips you can keep the holiday about fun and memories and take the focus off of the junk food.