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Healthy Celebrations

Even though Thanksgiving and Christmas are behind us, there are more holidays right around the corner: Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter, just to name a few. And of course don’t forget children’s birthdays!

Often the focus of holiday and birthday parties is on sugary, sweet foods like cake, ice cream, juice drinks and candy.  Offering a lot of treats like these encourages unhealthy eating habits. With the growing obesity epidemic and health problems associated with poor eating habits, it’s important to start young children on the path to eating healthy and being active. Learned early on, these habits can last a lifetime.

So how do you make celebrations fun and healthy? Plan ahead! Consider celebrating all the month’s birthdays on one day instead of having individual parties for every child’s birthday. Replace sugary snacks with healthy ones like fruits and vegetables. Let children try new foods and vote on the ones they like best. Create themes such as a red and pink snack for Valentine’s Day that may include cherry tomatoes and red pepper strips with hummus or a low-fat dip, red grapes, red apples, strawberries, raspberries, or dried cranberries. Make a pink smoothie with strawberries, raspberries and yogurt. For St. Patrick’s Day include green foods for snacks such as kiwi, edamame, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, broccoli, or whole grain tortilla chips with guacamole. Use cookie cutters to make fruit and sandwiches into fun shapes. Whenever possible purchase local, organic foods to improve nutrition and reduce children’s exposures to pesticides.

Plan special activities as part of the celebration, such as making up a dance, going on a scavenger hunt or nature walk, reading a special book, planting herbs, vegetables or other kinds of plants, or visiting a museum. Create a celebration ritual that happens only on special occasions. For example, if you’re celebrating birthdays as a group once per month, have a special pin the child wears on their actual birthday. Keep parents informed on what you are doing and ask for their cooperation and participation. Talk with them about the importance of encouraging the eating of healthy snacks and being active during celebration time and their role in teaching their children healthy habits.

For more information on healthy food for healthy celebrations, improving nutrition and promoting exercise, please visit: Children’s Environmental Health Network’s Eco-Healthy Child Care Program. Also visit our website for more information on safe, effective pest management and minimizing risks of pesticide exposure. You can now follow us on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our blog through our website.