Nutrition Corner: Make healthy treats for children’s birthday parties

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret


    The kids are back to school and birthday party invitations are beginning to appear. Even though our children are older now, they still like to celebrate with their friends. Birthday parties are a time to get together with friends outside of the classroom. For some parents, this means chaos; for others, it is a fun party to plan.

    Birthday parties can be expensive to host. If you decide to host a party, consider having it in your home. Determine a budget and stick to it. Here are some planning tips for a low cost party. Note each tip would vary according to age and gender of the child.

    First, chose a theme for your birthday party. It could be your child’s favorite animal, spaceships, dance or sports. Whatever fits your child — it’s his or her day!

    Invitations: Include whether it will be full meal or a snack and the beginning and ending times for pickup. Include the theme. Guests may even want to dress up.

    Menu planning: Include seasonal foods as well as healthy foods. Remember, food doesn’t need to be the center of the occasion. Include flavored water as an alternative to soda. If it spills, the cleanup is quicker. We have found that icing cookies never quite worked out like planned. The kids ate more of the icing and sprinkles and ended up with upset stomachs!

    Activity: It’s always best to plan more activities then needed just in case. Start with a welcome activity until all guests arrive. That would be a simple game in the yard or on the porch. Next, include an age-appropriate craft – even boys like to make a craft! Some ideas for girls are holiday pins or bedroom door decorations. For the boys, an airplane out of clothes pins or a group-made bird house to be donated to a local nursing home. Always enlist the help of friends for the craft class and assistance. Or if the craft doesn’t fit the party, chose a treasure hunt with a map. Use prize slips to turn in for a party favor.

    Party favors: Everyone likes to receive a gift at a birthday party. It doesn’t need to be expensive and can be quite unique. Some ideas are hot cocoa and mugs, a small bag of trail mix with a map of a famous geographic area that is downloadable and easy to print.

    To get organized, make a work plan and involve the whole family. Plan by making a list of all the jobs that need to get done, when they are to be completed and who will do them.

    The following is a sample kids’ birthday party menu, complete with recipes:

    Infused water

    Build a soft chicken taco

    Bite-sized pumpkin cookies

    Soft Chicken Taco

    2 chicken breasts (thawed, skin and bone removed from each piece)

    1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

    1 teaspoon garlic (finely chopped)

    1/4 teaspoon black pepper

    2/3 tablespoon taco seasoning or chili powder (optional)

    1 green pepper (sliced)

    1 onion (medium, sliced)

    4 soft tortillas (6-inch size)

    1/4 head of romaine lettuce (sliced thin)

    1/4 cup tomatoes (diced)

    4 teaspoons fresh tomato salsa

    In a large bowl, mix chicken, vegetable oil, garlic, and pepper. If using taco seasoning or chili powder, add them, too. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. While the chicken is in the refrigerator, cook the pepper and onion, on stove top, over medium heat until done (about 12 minutes). Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and cook over medium heat. Cook each side about 10 to 15 minutes. Place chicken on a plate. Let it cool for 5 minutes. Cut the chicken into strips. Note this step can be done the day before and refrigerated.

    Pre plate this step for each child: To make the tacos, put chicken on the tortilla first. Next let each child add these ingredients as they wish: peppers and onion strips lettuce, tomato, and salsa. Serves 4 adults. You may need to adjust depending on the number of guests.

    Tip for cooking chicken: The recommended safe minimum internal temperature for chicken is 165 degrees F, as measured by a food thermometer.

    Pumpkin Cookies

    1 3/4 cups pumpkin (pureed, cooked)

    1 1/2 cups brown sugar

    2 eggs

    1/2 cup vegetable oil

    1 1/2 cups flour

    1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

    1 tablespoon baking powder

    2 teaspoons cinnamon

    1 teaspoon nutmeg

    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

    Mix pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, and oil thoroughly. Blend dry ingredients and add to pumpkin mixture.

    Drop by teaspoonful on nonfat sprayed cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

    Makes 48 cookies regular size cookies. Enjoy!

    Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret Corner Mary R. Ehret

    Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at

    Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at

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