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Typically, foods for school celebrations include cupcakes, candy, cookies, and soda. There is nothing wrong with an occasional treat, but unhealthy choices have become the norm rather than the exception. 

Only two percent (2%) of children meet all healthy recommendations. Most children do not eat enough fruits, vegetables or whole grains. Constant exposure to low-nutrient foods makes it difficult for children to learn how to make healthy food choices. 

Schools have the opportunity to influence children's life-long eating patterns. Classroom parties can help teach children valuable social skills such as helping to prepare the food, sharing with others, and cleaning up after themselves. 

If healthy foods are included in the celebration, it can provide a chance to reinforce the message that nutritious food choices lead to healthier bodies and sharper minds. 

Ideas for Healthy Celebrations: 

● Try something new. Children like adventure. In addition to familiar games and foods, offer something different. 

● Plan creative experiences such as art, music and cooking. 

● Involve children in planning and preparing the party. Let them make decorations and favors. 

● Put food in its proper place. Refreshments should complement the fun, not become the "main event." 

● Don't use food as rewards or prizes. 

● Choose foods for fun, good taste and health. Parties that feature healthful foods provide opportunities for children to practice making wise food choices. 

● Play indoor games of the students' choosing. 

● Engage children in a special art project. 

● Take children on a field trip. 

● Play music and have a dance party. 

● Take a fun walk around the school with the principal or teacher. 

● Play games outside or host a field day. Allow extra recess time. 

Activities to Celebrate a Child: 

● Plan special party games and activities. Ask parents to provide game supplies, pencils, erasers, stickers and other small school supplies instead of food. 

● Create a healthy party idea book. Ask school staff and parents to send in healthy recipes and ideas for activities, games and crafts. Compile these ideas into a book that staff and parents can use. 

● Give children extra recess time instead of a class party. For birthdays, let the birthday child choose and lead an active game for everyone. 

● Instead of a party, organize a special community service project (e.g., invite senior citizens in for lunch, make "handkerchiefs" for chemotherapy patients, and blankets for rescue dogs). Involve parents in planning the project and providing needed materials. 

● Create a "Celebrate Me" book. Have classmates write stories or poems and draw pictures to describe what is special about the birthday child. 

● Provide special time with the principal or another adult, such as taking a walk around the school at recess. 

● Create a special birthday package. The birthday child wears a sash and crown, sits in a special chair and visits the principal's office for a special birthday surprise (pencil, sticker, birthday card, et cetera). 

● The birthday child is the teacher's assistant for the day and gets to do special tasks such as make deliveries to the office, lead the line, start an activity, and choose a game or story. 

Ways for Families to Celebrate Special Events: 

● Instead of food, ask parents to donate a book to the school library or classroom in honor of a child's birthday with the child's name inside. Read it to the class or invite the child's parents to come in and read it to the class. 

● Donate funds for playground or physical education/activity equipment such as jump ropes or balls. 

Healthful Food Celebrations for Classrooms: 

● Make your own pizza party using chopped vegetables, fruits and low-fat cheeses. 

● Make your own fruit sundae bar with fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt or sorbet. 

● Host a culture club-ask students to find and prepare healthy recipes from different cultures. 

● Host an agriculture day-ask a local farmer to bring in produce and have a tasting party. 

Healthy Food Ideas: 

● Beverages: 

■ Low-fat or non-fat plain or flavored milk 

■ One hundred percent (100%) juice 

■ Water 

■ Flavored/sparkling water (without added sugars or sweeteners) 

■ Sparkling punch (seltzer and one hundred percent [100%] fruit juice) 

● Fruit smoothies (blend berries, bananas and pineapple) 

● Fresh fruit assortment 

● Fruit and cheese kabobs 

● Fruit salad 

● Fruit with low-fat whipped topping 

● Fresh apple wedges and caramel dip 

● Dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots, banana chips) 

● Vegetable trays with low-fat dip 

● Fresh cut vegetables and reduced fat ranch dip or salsa 

● Celery and carrots with peanut butter and raisins 

● Whole-grain crackers with cheese cubes, string cheese or hummus 

● Baked chips and salsa 

● Baked chips and reduced-fat dip 

● Low-fat tortilla chips with salsa or bean dip 

● Pretzels 

● Air-popped popcorn 

● Rice cakes 

● Bread sticks 

● Graham crackers 

● Animal crackers 

● Angel food cake, plain or topped with fruit 

● Snack cake squares without icing or topped with fruit and reduced-fat whipped topping 

● Oatmeal raisin cookies and low fat milk 

● Fig bars 

● Waffles or pancakes topped with fruit 

● Bagel slices with peanut butter or jam 

● Fruit or grain muffin (low-fat) 

● Whole wheat English muffin 

● Low-fat breakfast or granola bars 

● Warm soft pretzels 

● Pizza with low fat toppings (vegetables, lean ham, Canadian bacon) 

● Pizza dippers with marinara sauce 

● Ham, cheese or turkey sandwiches or wraps (with low-fat condiments) 

● Quesadillas or bean burrito with salsa 

● Low-fat pudding; sugar-free pudding 

● Low-fat yogurt 

● Squeezable yogurt 

● Yogurt smoothies 

● Yogurt parfaits or banana splits (yogurt and fruit topped with cereal, granola or crushed graham crackers) 

● Trail/cereal mix (whole-grain, low-sugar cereals mixed with dried fruit, pretzels) 

● Nuts and seeds 

● Crackers and peanut butter 

● Fresh Fruit topped with peanut butter 

Theme Party Recipe Ideas: 

● Halloween: 

■ Roasted pumpkin seeds 

■ Pumpkin bread muffins 

■ Witch's Brew* 

■ Abracadabra Wands* 

● Harvest or Thanksgiving: 

■ Nut and dried fruit Trail Mix 

■ Lemon-Chili Veggies* 

■ Corn bread 

● Winter Holidays: 

■ Apple wedges dipped in caramel or peanut butter 

● Valentine's Day: 

■ Angel Food cake with fresh strawberries topped with whipped topping 

■ Fresh Fudgy Fruit* 

■ Cherry Tomato Fillers* 

● Spring: 

■ Sparkling Grapes* 

■ Fruit salad with yogurt dip 

■ Celery Wagons* 

● End of the Year or Summer: 

■ Banana Splits* 

■ Fresh Fruit Kabobs 

■ Veggie Sticks with low-fat or non-fat dip 

■ Hooray for the Red, White, and Blue! 

* Check for food allergies before serving. 

Recipes (All recipes serve thirty-two [32] students) 

Source: Kids Get Cookin' 5 a Day-Power Play! and American Heart Association 

Abracadabra Wands (serving size: 2 sticks/student) 


10 red apples, cut into 64 chunks
5 cups red grapes
8 oz. non-fat or low-fat cheddar cheese, cut into 64 chunks
2 avocados, cut into 64 chunks
64 long, thin pretzel (or wooden) sticks (about 3 inches long) 

Preparation (20 minutes): 

1. Use a wooden skewer to poke holes in center of each piece of food. 

2. Thread pieces onto pretzel stick. 

3. Serve leftover pieces of fruit. 

Witch's Brew 


1 gallon cranberry juice
1 gallon apple cider
12 oz. frozen orange juice, unprepared 

Preparation (5 minutes): 

1. Mix all ingredients together in large pitcher. 

Lemon-Chili Veggies 

1. Chop any favorite veggies (try cucumber and jicama) into chunks. 

2. Squeeze fresh lemon juice onto each piece. 

3. Lightly sprinkle with chili powder and salt. 

Cherry Tomato Fillers (serving size: 2 tomatoes) 


64 (large) cherry tomatoes
1 ½ cups low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup sunflower seeds 

Preparation (15 minutes): 

1. Cut tops and scoop seeds and the pulp out of each tomato. 

2. Fill with 1 teaspoon of cottage cheese. 

Fresh Fudgy Fruit (serving size: 1/2 banana and 1 strawberry) 


16 bananas, peeled, cut in half
32 strawberries, tops removed
3 cups light hot fudge at room temp.
5 cups low fat granola
64 wooden craft sticks 

Preparation (15 minutes): 

1. Insert wooden stick into the cut end of each fruit. 

2. Place granola into plastic bag and use a spoon to crush granola, and place in shallow bowl. 

3. Pour fudge into shallow bowl. 

4. Place fruit in fudge and spread the sauce around. 

5. Place fruit on top of the granola. Turn to coat lightly. 

Sparkling Grapes 


3 - 3 oz. packages of gelatin
64 small clusters grapes
1 ½ cups boiling water
1 ½ cups ice cubes 

Preparation (15 minutes): 

1. Pour gelatin powder into measuring cup. Pour half of the powder into a bowl and place the other half on the side. 

2. Add boiling water to the bowl of gelatin. Stir until powder is dissolved. Add ice cubes and stir until ice melts. 

3. Dip grape clusters in liquid gelatin mixture and shake off excess. 

4. Sprinkle extra powder over grapes and serve. 

Celery Wagons 


2 stalks celery, cut into 3 inch pieces
4 large carrots, slices
2 cups low-fat dip
64 toothpicks 

Preparation (15 minutes): 

1. Cut veggies ahead of time. 

2. Have students put a carrot piece at each end of 2 toothpicks. 

3. Place a celery stick on top of the toothpicks. 

4. Fill with 1 tablespoon of dip. 

Mini Banana Splits 


16 small bananas, peeled
8 cups fresh berries
16 cups low fat vanilla yogurt
2 cups low fat granola 


1. Cut banana in half, share between 2 students. 

2. Scoop a ½ of cup of yogurt onto banana. 

3. Top with berries and granola. 

Hooray for the Red, White, and Blue! 


5 baskets of strawberries (about 64 strawberries)
4 containers of blueberries
1-12 oz. container of low fat whipped topping 


1. Wash fruit. Remove tops from the strawberries. 

2. In small cup place 2 strawberries and a dollop of whipped topping and sprinkle with about 5 blueberries.