Where there’s a kid’s birthday party, there’s usually pizza. Convenient and easy, pizza is also a surefire hit with most kids, and it can save tired party-planning parents from another task.
But pizza isn’t exactly nutritious. In fact, it packs quite a punch in fat and calories, and considering most kids attend several birthday parties a year, those slices can add up. With a little creativity and some out-of-the-box thinking, you can serve a nutritious birthday party meal that’s easy, crowd-pleasing and affordable. Here are 10 ideas to help get you started.
Make-your-own sandwich station
Prepare a make-your-own station for kids with whole wheat bread, lean meats, protein- and calcium-rich cheese slices and veggies (think bell peppers, tomatoes and dark greens like spinach). Skip the chips and offer a side of fresh fruit.
Kid-friendly taco bar
Create a taco bar with whole wheat tortillas, lean meats like ground turkey or shredded chicken and veggies like onions, bell peppers, avocado and shredded lettuce. And forget the sour cream; low-fat Greek yogurt will do the trick as a creamy, savory topping.
Easy to prepare the day before, kabobs are a good source of protein and nutrients. Pack your bamboo skewers with healthy grill-friendly veggies, lean meat and some flavorful seasoning. Not enough time? Many grocery stores carry pre-made kabobs that are already skewered and seasoned, minimizing your effort and maximizing convenience.
Whether frozen or made fresh the day before, pierogies are a winner with kids. These Eastern European dumplings can give kids energy all afternoon, especially when stuffed with sweet potatoes or spinach and cheese.
A healthy snack spread
Let kids choose from a variety platter to make their own meal. Try whole wheat pita triangles with hummus, fresh fruit, veggies and multigrain crackers with cheese.
Kids love little sandwiches in bite-sized triangles. Try turkey and cheese, ham and cheese or a nut butter with whole fruit jam, all on whole wheat bread. Or ditch the bread completely with Inside Out Cucumber Sandwiches.
Whole wheat mac and cheese
Mac and cheese is a kid favorite and can be made easily in bulk. Opt for whole wheat pasta and try adding in some cauliflower for extra nutrients. With a side of fresh fruits and veggies, this meal will be a guaranteed hit with kids.
Baked chicken nuggets
Chicken nuggets don’t have to be heavily breaded and fried. Chicken nuggets or strips can be baked with a little panko with minimum effort on your end. Let kids have fun with a variety of dipping sauces such as barbecue, low-fat ranch, honey mustard and low-sugar ketchup. Here are four kid-favorite dip recipes that you can make yourself.
You really can’t go wrong with breakfast for lunch! Try a spread of whole wheat pancakes or waffles plus a fruit platter with granola and low-fat yogurt. Fluffy scrambled eggs can make another great addition to the breakfast bar.
Homemade mini pizzas
Are you and your kids still hankering for pizza? Try a pizza-making station, but keep it healthy. Offer whole wheat pita or English muffins for the “crust,” followed by low-sodium tomato or marinara sauce, grilled chicken, bell peppers, mushrooms, shredded mozzarella cheese and any other meat and veggie toppings you’d like to add.