When I think back to the early 90’s birthday parties, I remember loads of sugar, cake, red cool drinks and Flings! Parents are a lot more conscious of snacks and treats now than what they were back then. We chatted to our go-to girl, dietitian Anel Kirsten to get some tips on how to make birthday parties healthier.
∇ Salt, sugar and trans-fats are foods to watch when it comes to your little one’s diet. Many of the snacks found at kids parties are high in SALT. Like anything there is place for a small amount of salt in a child’s diet. A 1 – 3 year old has a daily recommended maximum amount of 2g while an eleven year and older’s maximum recommend intake is 6g per day. SUGAR intake escalates very quickly if a child eats or drinks lots of processed foods or beverages – foods usually found at kid’s parties. The problem with sugar is that it provides empty calories (energy of no nutritional value) that rob the body of nutrition to strengthen the immune system. Too much sugar also causes cold-like symptoms e.g. runny noses, excessive mucus, cough and symptoms of sinus infections. The average primary school child should not consume more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day. The American Heart Association recommends limiting children’s sugar intake to 3-4 teaspoons per day.
It is scary when you realise that one 75g pack of jelly sweets contain 14 teaspoons of sugar!
∇ TRANS-FATS OR HYDROGENATED (man-made) FATS are the worst fats and are found typically in processed foods such as hard brick margarine, biscuits and chips. It is usually listed as “partially hydrogenated” or “vegetable oil shortening” in the ingredients list. Trans-fats increase the risk of disease (e.g. cancer, heart disease). In large amounts trans-fatty acids can also affect brain function as it interferes with the role of omega-3 fatty acids in the brain.
TIPS FOR MAKING PARTIES HEALTHIER:
∇ Before the party
Make sure your child has eaten a healthy well-balanced meal or snack before the party starts. Children’s eating behaviour is usually driven by hunger. A hungry child will spend most of the party time around the sweets table eating whatever is available but generally children prefer to spend their party time playing if they’re not hungry.
∇ At the party
Children will eat what is served at the party. If healthier food is offered at the party – that’s what they will eat. If healthy foods are served together with unhealthy options, chances are that the children will choose the unhealthier options. Therefore it is better to serve only healthier foods, snacks and drinks.
PARTY FOOD SUGGESTIONS:
∇ Drinks: Diluted fruit juice, homemade ice tea (rooibos tea mixed with 100% pure fruit juice), water (still or sparkling)
∇ Sweet snacks: Dried fruit pieces, fruit skewers, fruit slices, chocolate dipped strawberries, homemade custard, frozen yoghurt lollies (blend fruit and yoghurt and freeze in ice-lolly moulds), crumpets (plaatkoekies), pancakes
∇ Savoury snacks: Mini sandwiches, mini-frikadelle, mini-quiches, biltong strips, cheese wedges, chicken strips, chicken skewers, chicken drumstick, mini hamburgers, mini pizza, homemade popcorn, small packets of crisps, baked potato wedges.
∇ Cake: Sustained energy for kids cookbook and Snacks and Treats for Sustained Energy cookbook includes great party recipes that is low in Glycaemic Index such as chocolate cake and cupcakes, brownies, carrot cake, banana bread, only to name a few.
PARTY PACK IMPROVEMENTS:
These are usually filled with numerous amounts of high sugar and high fat goodies that provides children with empty calories. To make things worse ….. The party packs follows your child back home! If it is your child’s party you can reduce the empty calorie content by including nutritious items in the party pack or even add a toy.
There is also a new company, Myum that makes healthy children meals and snacks on order, have a look at their website for some great nutritious party foods: www.myum.co.za