This last week we had our 4th birthday celebration which is somewhat hard to believe. I now have little kids…not toddlers. Thank goodness they all agreed on a Pirate and Pixie party seeing that they are obsessed with Peter Pan and everything pirate.
I have to say…this made the crafter in me excited. Treasure hunts, captain hook, pirate ships? I’m in! As I combed over pirate and pixie party ideas on Pinterest I started to notice a trend in birthdays these days. Sugar. Lots and lots of sugar. If you know me and this blog you’ll know I’m a firm believer in having sweet treats once in awhile but the birthday trend I’m seeing right now has me a little concerned as a dietitian.
Gone are the days of having a pizza party and a slice of cake. Now you see tables full of cookies, candies and cake (and I mean full). Keep in mind, I’m not talking about a little candy in a goodie bag or a few extras at the party. It’s almost as if parents are literally trying to recreate Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory in their backyard. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not judging any one parent…the tables are outstanding and beautiful. It’s the overall trend I’m worried about.
I know, I know…relax, it’s only a party. Believe me…I’m not worried about the one day…more about what kids learn is “normal” throughout their lifetime. The problem I see is portion sizes have increased exponentially since the 70′s and we have more children with high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes than ever before. When a child grows up thinking this amount of sugar on a table is normal for a celebration, they will have a very difficult time rationalizing one small piece of cake is what you should be eating later in life. Oh…I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes but take a minute and imagine what a half cup of icecream looks like in a bowl. Ridiculously small right? That’s actually the amount you’re supposed to be eating. I believe all the dieting mentality in this country has created a situation of all or nothing (have no sweets or eat huge amounts) instead of simply having a normal amount of sweets and not making such a big deal about it.
Portion distortion is something that is already prevalent in our society now and I believe is largely responsible for major health issues in this country. I worry that showing kids they can have cookies, candy and cake in abundant amounts every time they go to a party will make it even worse, not better. There will be even more of a dissociation with what a “treat” looks like.
I get it…I was tempted by the cute ideas like pixie sticks and pirate cookies. I told myself the only treat I want them to have is cupcakes like when I was a kid. Seeing all those amazing ideas on Pinterest made it difficult that’s for sure. Instead I switched gears and looked at cute food ideas using fruits, vegetables and other snacky foods and this is what I came up with.
For our Pixie table I used a lot of fruit ideas for the bright colors. We had ladybug strawberries, snail sandwiches (didn’t turn out so great so we changed it to “log” sandwiches), fruit skewers for the fairies garden, berries (of course- what else do fairies eat?), and adorable toad stools made out of cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese sticks.
The Pirate Table had pirate’s booty, chips, veggies, sweetened dried fruit, candied nuts (we had some sweets!), pirate’s maps (toquitos) and crown jewels (mini pot pies).
The biggest hit of the party? Not the sweetened stuff at all but our hummus octopus…all the kids loved him!
Of course we had cupcakes which sadly my blue ocean icing turned pale grey so they ended up being the most unappetizing items on the table…go figure! They still tasted good. Death grey is still pirate-like right?
I’m not trying to pretend that this party was over the top healthy nor do I think that needs to be your focus for your child’s birthday. I just think the trend of so much sugar is unnecessary and in some ways may be harmful as your child grows up thinking this is a normal amount of sugar to eat. Kids don’t care…they’re excited about the party and playing with their friends. I vote for getting back to the birthday cake (or cupcake) being the sweet treat that everyone looks forward to at the end of the party.
Here are a few sites that provide cute ideas for party foods (keep in mind some are sweets but many use fruits and veggies or combine the two)