My Line in the Sand…Healthier Birthday Treats

Yep, I’m climbing up on my soapbox yet again!  I recently read an article (by Yoni Freedhoff, MD) about all the excess sugar our children are given at school or other activities. It added up to about 600 extra calories from sugar per week for his elementary-age children. That’s appalling to me.

But it adds up quickly…if you have 25 kids in the class, and celebrate summer birthdays on the half-year, then that’s 25 times your kid will come home all sugared up. My kids are wild enough by the time school’s out…they need no chemical help! And that’s without the after practice “treats” or the lollipops at the bank, barber shop, or carwash. Yes, at the carwash. Being whisked through the auto-wash should be treat enough for any kid!

I was already at the end of my tolerance for my kids coming home with candy or other sweets they’d “earned” at school, or hearing about yet another birthday treat that was nothing but empty sugar calories. Now, I’m not trying to count calories for my kids here…they’re all a healthy weight for their height.  I just want their food to be nutritious.

I confess, I bowed to peer pressure and sent cupcakes for the third grader’s birthday in December and the first grader took Rice Krispy treats in September. But I’ve decided that no more will I contribute to the problem. When Princess Thundercloud’s birthday approached last week, I girded my loins and prepared for battle when I told her that we would be taking something healthy for a treat. To my surprise, she was perfectly fine with it. I gave her a few choices, and she decided on yogurt parfaits.

For the Valentine’s Party, we were asked to bring a healthy snack (because someone else was bringing a sugary treat for a birthday on Valentine’s Day). I had pinned these butterfly snacks last year, and thought they would be perfect for Valentine’s Day.


Thundercloud was happy to help, first decorating the clothespins, then helping fill the bags.And did you know that rainbow Goldfish contain no artificial dyes?  I drew the antennae and cut the strips of paper, by the way, but she did the rest.

012913-POD-Esme    Clothespins

Of course, we couldn’t possibly make the same thing for her birthday two months later. She looked at me like I had a third eye on my forehead when I suggested it. Instead, we decided on the yogurt parfaits…they’re her favorite breakfast or snack, and she almost always orders the parfait (or oatmeal) if we go to McDonalds.


We made the ones for school in a Zoopals cup, but since they’re not transparent, I took a photo of our prototype in a clear glass. One of her classmates has a peanut allergy, so I couldn’t find granola that was nut-free.  And I had used all the oats I had on hand the week before, making granola that was chockful of nuts. It also makes me a little nervous to provide home-baked things, since I don’t have a nut-free kitchen. So we used Annie’s Bunny Grahams on top instead. There’s also a blackberry allergy in her class, so we just used strawberries for the fruit.Parfaits


I printed some “Happy Birthday”s on pink cardstock and punched them out with a scallop circle punch.  Then she used double-sided tape to attach them to the Zoopal lids.

She also helped assemble the parfaits. I diced the strawberries, then together we spooned in yogurt and layered the strawberries in between.  No strawberries could show because, “It has to be a surprise that they’re in there!!!!” Then she sprinkled a few grahams on top just before we took them to school, so they wouldn’t get soggy. No one wants soggy bunnies.


I realize that many schools don’t allow homemade treats…our school in Washington doesn’t, so next year I’ll be using some of these ideas:

1. Individual bags of Annie’s Bunny Grahams

2. A bag of apple slices and string cheese

3. Yogurt tubes (we like Yoplait Simply or Stoneyfield Farms)

4. Non-food party favors, such as fun pencils, small bottles of bubbles, bookmarks, etc.

5. Clementines or other small oranges. We drew jack o’lantern faces on these for the school Halloween party and they were a big hit with the kids.

6. Squeeze applesauce or granola bars

7. Individual bags of Veggie Chips or popcorn

8. Fruit Rollups or Stretch Island Fruit Bars or Bites

9. Rainbow Fruit Kabobs (if you can bring homemade treats…this was Thundercloud’s 2nd choice, so we had those at her party)

10. Pick up a bunch of crayons when they’re on sale at the beginning of the school year…usually you can get them for 25 cents.  What kid doesn’t love cracking open a brand-new box of colors? You could even download and print black and white mini coloring or game books to go along with the crayons.

11. It’s a little pricey, but you could order yogurt parfaits from McDonalds.

Wish me luck on this new non-sugar crusade…I may just take on chocolate milk at school next! (And, please, won’t you think about joining me in reducing the sugar in our kids’ lives?  Thanks!)


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