Birthday party snacks can be awesome, and healthy

Five ways to reduce the sugar spirals and keep the party hopping 

By Karen Kerr, registered holistic nutritional constant

Kids love their birthdays. My daughter starts planning her party months in advance. In a child’s little lifetime, it’s a big deal and worth the time and energy it takes us to plan, organize, shop, set up, survive, send home, clean up and collapse.

Food can be the trickiest part. You may have guests with food allergies and intolerances, plus picky eaters. And the biggest question is always: how much sugar is too much? I have a firm stance that there is nothing wrong with cake. I was raised by a professional cake decorator and my daughter’s one request each year is to use “Nanny’s buttercream icing.” So, with cake being a given, I try to avoid sugar in the other foods I serve. 

Here are five ways to reduce the sugar spirals and keep the party hopping. Depending on age and size, most kids’ sugar intake should not exceed 20 to 30 grams per day (average for one slice of cake).

1. Plan an afternoon party. This allows you to avoid providing a whole extra meal. A common party food is pizza, but even one slice of pepperoni pizza has five grams of sugar. I like a party where there is something active being done, whether it’s an outside game or indoor play park. Get the kids engaged
and moving.

2. Avoid the liquid sugar. Have a few jugs of water on the table. Kids don’t need juice or pop. One juice box can contain 18 grams of sugar and most pop has around 25 to 38 grams per can. If you serve cake with a juice box you are essentially serving each kid two slices of cake, which is just too much.

3. Place a vegetable plate out before you serve anything else. I find if you put healthy options out and make it look yummy, they will happily eat it — especially if the kids have been running around with an activity. If you want the convenience of not making one yourself, I love the quality of Nova Scotia Grazing Co.

4. Look for healthier options. There are some wonderful local places that specialize in making delicious and nutritious cakes. From gluten-free, vegan or no-refined-sugar options, you can find what you are looking for. After my daughter started inviting a friend with celiac disease, I always bought a gluten-free cake. You don’t want a child to feel singled out over a medical condition. 

5. Remove the candy from the take home bags. I don’t know who started this tradition, but I personally think they are unnecessary. (But yes, I’ve had them for each of my daughter’s parties because no one wants to be that parent!) But art supplies, little toys or books are great alternative choices. 

A few of my favourite local bakeries:

  • North End Baking Co.                    
  • Schoolhouse Gluten-Free Gourmet       
  • Wild Leek (vegan restaurant)
  • Truly Scrumptious
  • Odell’s Gluten Free Bakery & Cafe (
  • Susie’s Shortbread (

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