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Children's Birthday Parties PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lauren Rosenstadt   
Monday, 21 May 2001 15:48

I have often been asked how to handle the traditional fare served at children’s birthday parties. I developed the following solution through trial and error on my 15-year-old daughter when she was young. She has survived it beautifully. In the spirit of a healthy, well-adjusted childhood, I offer it to you.

I took as my premise that the purpose of a birthday party was to celebrate the birthday child,

for which food was a secondary ritual. Therefore, to be invited was an honor. If the birthday child’s parent asked ahead of time whether Liz had any special dietary needs, (which for lucky me happened 50% of the time) I would say no animal foods, but lots of fruits, veggies, nuts and other plant-based foods. Sometimes, I would still be asked, “Does that mean turkey hotdogs are okay?”

Occasionally, this was an opportunity to do a little educating, particularly when I got the feeling that this family was sticking their toes in vegetarian waters. But mainly I thanked the parent thoroughly for asking.

Those parents who did indeed serve, as I suggested, a big salad and guacamole or hummus along with the hotdogs and hamburgers, and fruit salad alongside the ice-cream and cake, were surprised to find themselves at the head of the parade among the other parents who also wanted their kids to eat healthier.

Otherwise, if not asked about special needs, I said nothing.

So how did I handle the birthday parties where I knew that if my child ate what was served she would probably come home sick? I filled her tummy before she left home! Preferably with one of her all-time favorite meals, so that when she arrived at the party, she was not terribly hungry in the first place — she was more interested in playing. The worst case scenario would be that she had a little bit of something she would not normally eat, but hopefully not enough to make her sick. Why not just tell her which foods to eat and which to stay away from?

First of all, in a setting where temptation is offered in the spirit of friendship, it is extremely difficult, especially for a young child, to resist. (I have learned this the hard way.) Rather than simultaneously sending my hungry child in-to a tempting situation and requiring her to be a saint, I put good food in her stomach and spared her much conflict.

Second, I didn’t want her to have to be the spokeschild for our way of living. (If a child wants to do that, great, but in my book it’s not mandatory.) I wanted her to be a child with her peers, not a parent. And, upon returning home, I tried to be casual with Liz about any diversions from our diet, not judgmental. It was liberating to know that she felt safe coming clean with the fact that she ate a little chocolate cake. Somehow, I understood that childhood birthday parties would eventually become teenage outings, and that the time to keep the communicative doors open was now. I wanted to keep the big picture in mind: There are worse things in life than chocolate cake! And better!

©Copyright 2001. All Rights Reserved. Health Science is the publication of the National Health Association. This article reprinted from the Spring 2001 issue.


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