Healthier Birthday Celebrations

Posted on June 2nd, 2015 by Seth Nickinson

Believe it or not, it is possible to have a birthday celebration without soda and cupcakes. That applies to kids in the classroom and adults at the workplace. (Scroll halfway down for a cupcake “alternative”)

For your co-workers

Because let’s face it, it’s not just kids who want birthday treats. How do you help make sure an office birthday reinforces your organization’s wellness priorities?

1) Consolidate: You can start by celebrating all the birthdays for a month on just one day. That cuts back on treats even if you are still determined to have them.

2) Cook: as author Michael Pollan has famously exhorted, if you want to eat treats, make them from scratch. So have a rule that no store-bought baked goods are allowed. There are plenty of healthier cake and cookie recipes out there.

3) Be Creative: try new food ideas rather than the same old sweets. How about these?

  • Salad potluck – a simple way to do a potluck, easy on everyone’s pocketbook and prep time, plus it’s healthy. If you like, “management” can provide the fresh greens.

office salad potluck


  • Hummus, veggies, and whole-grain crackers
  • Popcorn with herb seasoning – try these quick ideas
  • Nut-based bars – like these “superfood” almond bars, or these scrumptious 5-ingredient granola bars
  • Yogurt parfaits
  • Plus check out all the  “kid” ideas down below!
yogurt berry parfait

Image Credit: Flickr user song zhen

For kids in schools

Traditionally, school parties center around food: cupcakes, cookies, candy, chips and unrecognizable punch. But nowadays those options often run in direct conflict with attempts to create a culture of health and wellness in a school district.

Structural changes

Shake up the whole idea of a food-based birthday:

  • Celebrate all the birthdays for a month on just one day
  • Replace the “cupcake tradition” with something new – for instance, drawing a birthday mural, creating a birthday hat, or other special activity.
  • Celebrate monthly birthdays with an open gym celebration
  • Take some time out of the day to set up craft stations and have kids do arts with music playing. Parents can provide stickers and other art materials.
  • Dance party
  • Allow children a trip to the “treasure box” – parents can stock it with paints, small toys, sparkly things, note pads, etc.

Better Food Options

One great, basic standard is to require a ratio of 3 healthy items for every 1 sweet.

fruit and yogurt waffle cones

Imaged Credit: Cooking Mamas

  • Fruit Cones – serve cut fruit, melon balls, or whole berries and grapes* in ice cream cones.
  • Fruit skewers (sprinkle with a little lemon or pineapple juice to prevent browning)
  • Fruit and cheese kabobs
  • Popcorn – try one of these 30 recipes or just try nutritional yeast, which tastes cheesy but isn’t
  • Only 100% Fruit/Vegetable Juice
  • Pretzels
  • Angel food cake – plain or topped with fruit
  • Un-cupcakes – check out this muffin recipe that works with any fruit and very little added sugar

fruit muffin recipe



(recipe care of CSPI)

  • Yogurt, berry, and granola parfaits: chop a variety of seasonal fruit. Layer it in small, clear cups with vanilla yogurt and granola, mixed nuts. or sunflower seeds
  • Dried fruit and trail mix: can be found in supermarket bulk bins or large packages from warehouse clubs – *make sure to check on nut allergies
  • School caf treats: Arrange with school food service (presuming you have a good one) to provide celebration treats. They have to follow strict recipe guidelines, and these days the food is far better than you might remember
  • Whole fruit popsicles: preferably homemade, too
  • Fruit birthday “cake” 
dino all fruit cake

All Fruit “Cake” from blogger See My Footprints

To Learn More