School Party Ideas: Healthy Foods to Serve

Supply your students with safe and healthy foods.

While cake, ice cream, pizza, and chips are traditional party foods, many parents and teachers are looking for healthy alternatives. One consideration is food allergies: in any classroom, there may be children allergic to peanuts, wheat, milk, and even red food dye. Other children may be struggling with childhood obesity, high blood pressure, or diabetes. When planning a party for children, teachers need to be aware of these issues and plan their menus accordingly, while still keeping party foods festive.

One favorite party food, both for kid appeal and convenience, is pizza. Pizza is actually one of the healthier take-out foods. For additional nutrition, order whole-wheat crust if available; ask for less cheese to be used (or ask for soy cheese, if a child in the class has a diary allergy). Pile on the vegetables for toppings in lieu of fatty and salty pepperoni and sausage. Many children enjoy mushrooms and black olives, and some may be surprised at how much they like pineapple on pizza! Other healthy main dishes include finger sandwiches, wraps made with cold cuts and veggies rolled inside of tortillas, and a hearty spinach dip served with chunks of pumpernickel or rye bread. An easy recipe for a spinach dip that most kids love is 1 16-oz container of low-fat sour cream, an envelope of low-sodium onion or vegetable soup mix, and a package of frozen spinach thawed and well-drained. Mix together and chill for two hours. This dip can also be served with cut up vegetables such as baby carrots and red or green peppers.

Chips and candy are popular snacks at school parties but are not healthy. Popcorn or low-sodium Chex Mix can be substituted for chips without sacrificing crunch. Many children enjoy fruit as a sweet treat if it is presented in an appealing way. Melon can be cut into chunks. Strawberries can have the stems cut off and be mixed with other colorful berries. Apples and pears can be sliced and drizzled with lemon juice to keep them from browning.

Many parties, especially birthday parties, would not be the same without cake. Its possible to enjoy this traditional birthday food while keeping in mind health guidelines. When baking, applesauce or canned pumpkin can usually be substituted for all or part of the oil. This also adds nutritious fiber to the cake. Red dye can be avoided when ordering cakes by asking the baker not to use colored icing (you can write the name on the cake with naturally-dyed cake icing available at a health food store later). When making brownies, a small amount of chopped spinach can be added to the batter to add nutritional value without altering the taste. For other healthy school party ideas, Jessica Seinfelds book, Deceptively Delicious, is full of ways to add vegetables to kids favorite foods.

Children usually look back on school parties with fond memories. By taking the effort to make the party food nutritious, their parents will thank you too!