Healthy (Fun) Foods for Classroom Parties

By , Karina Downie
Eating healthier can be hard enough for us adults, but when our kids want those fun and colorful packaged foods that are low in nutrition and high in calories, it can be hard to say no to them (and keep our own fingers out of the box once it arrives home). In our home, my husband and I make a conscious effort to keep the snacks we buy as natural and nutrient-packed as possible. Of course there are always times when we allow our sons to have “special" (mom-speak for junky) treats, but we try to limit those to truly special occasions, and not let them become a daily habit.
At our kids' school, many well intending parents bring in packaged treats and sweets to share with their child's classmates on birthdays and other special occasions. Much of what is shared are the kinds of foods that we choose not to give our children (sugary, high-cal snack foods with other additives and preservatives). While celebratory foods and sweets are OK in moderation, it seems like almost every day is someone else's birthday, which means these treats are anything but occasional.  So I am on a quest to encourage parents to bring in healthier alternatives that the kids will still enjoy.
I've created a list of 17 foods that are fun for kids, yet quick and easy for busy parents and teachers to pick up or assemble.
  • Frozen yogurt (can be topped with granola)
  • Colorful fruit cut on a platter
  • Fruit cup parfait w/cut fruit, yogurt and granola
  • 100% fruit juice popsicles
  • Pudding cups (Kozy Shack brand among some others is all natural)
  • Natural or homemade muffins
  • Pretzel sticks with dip
  • 100% fruit leathers or roll-ups (dried fruit without added sweeteners)
  • Applesauce in cups (natural or unsweetened varieties are best)
  • Pasta with cheese sauce
  • Fruit smoothies made with fruit, yogurt, etc. (One of our best class parties was a smoothie party where we made them to order for the kids.)
  • Trail mix without nuts (since many kids now have nut allergies)
  • Shaved ice with fruit juice concentrate to "color" and sweeten
  • Mini sandwiches cut into fun shapes with cookie cutters
  • Celery sticks with spread with sunflower seed butter, cream cheese, raisins, pretzels
  • Salad bar to make themselves (Believe it or not, it’s been a hit in the past—even with Kindergarteners!)
  • Fruit juice gelatin (Use unflavored gelatin and your favorite fruit juice instead of water.)
Do you have ideas to add? Let’s come together and create an irresistible master list to share with our teachers and school administrators, and keep posted in our kitchens to remind ourselves of some of the fun foods out there that can actually strengthen our kids' bodies and help us get closer to our goals of being as fit and healthy as possible. We are the best teachers for our children, so let’s work together to provide them with the best nutritional education we can. Please let us know your ideas below!
Karina Downie is the wife of SparkPeople founder and CEO Chris "SparkGuy" Downie. Like her husband, she is passionate about helping others reach their goals, while also leading by example when it comes to teaching their two young sons about the importance of healthy living. You can learn more about Chris and Karina's at-home cooking habits in "The SparkPeople Cookbook," available now.