I do get it. I really do. It’s that one time in a year, the special day when wishes are granted, dreams come true.

I am talking about birthdays, in particular, children’s birthday parties to which, along with my children, I get invited rather frequently. Maybe something like 10 to 15 times a year.

I think these are great celebrations — occasions to get together, have children play together. The best of it for me? The opportunity to catch up with friends and other parents whilst drinking a cup of coffee.

And, of course, there is a cake. There must be.  Often also a lot of goodies. I have absolutely nothing against a little treat here and then, and I’m the last person to want to ruin a party. But it can easily be a little too much.

I recently attended a birthday party with my girls. Anything and everything offered there as food was either very fatty or full of sugar: chips, French fries, chicken nuggets, lollipops, chocolate bars, marsh mallows, M&M’s. And that was before the cake.

There was nothing I felt good about giving to my kids but hey, of course they were allowed some. It was a birthday party after all. Kind of difficult to control their consumption in a ‘help yourself’ environment anyway, where little hands could easily reach the candy bowl once you looked the other way.

Then the cake arrived – a rainbow-coloured affair with an icing – and everyone gathered around the birthday kid to sing. A happy moment. Though a very, very sweet one. Most kids could not finish more than a few spoonfulls.

Time to leave, goodie bags are handed. What’s in it? More sugar: a bag full candy and other sweet treats.

Dear fellow parents, I really do understand you want to make a special day. I really, really do. But is sugar along with all the artificial colours and flavours the only way?

Jane Freeman, leading Dietitian, shares that it is not only the sugar overload that can be a problem. For many children, it is all the colours and flavours they soak up from all the fake foods; it’s the pink or green icing that can be the real culprit. Jane shares with us her tips on how to avoid it:

I have baked them all: rocket ships, dolly vardens, footballs and, this year, it was a little gymnastics studio. Where I can, I use fruit or vegetables pigments to infuse natural flavours and colours into the butter icings. Strawberry and raspberries work for that fairy pink colour, kiwi fruit is great for green. Take blueberries for purple. Yellow or a skin colour can be achieved from a sprinkle of turmeric. I also prefer to use cacao powder or a really good quality dark chocolate cocoa to ensure that all the icing that ends up smeared across the child’s face and t-shirt does a little more for him than cheaper or fake chocolate flavours.”

Why not consider offering a couple of not so sweet, sugar-free options alongside? A decoratively laid out assembly or fresh fruit, or crudites? Something ‘un’-deep fried, wholegrain and tasty?

About the goodie bag: if you do want to share something, please do consider non-food options. Some cool stickers? Coloured pencils perhaps? There are plenty of alternatives to artificial colours, flavours and excessive amounts of sugar.

Happy, healthy birthdays!

 

Published on Executive Lifestyle April 5th, 2015

 

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