How to work with a venue to keep your party healthy

My 5 year old recently attended a birthday party at a swimming pool complex. I love taking my boys to active parties, be they at playgrounds or coordinated sport centres. The children have so much fun, often wanting to go back and do it again or join the activity more regularly. Parents tend to be relaxed and happy, and the general feeling is very enthusiastic and positive.

At the end of the water-play time, I hesitated as we approached the party food room. At first glance into the individual boxes, I was disappointed at the large cup of jelly, sugary fruit juice pack and white bread. But then I took another look and noticed diced fruit in the jelly, a cheese sandwich and a chicken skewer. I felt a bit of relief that we wouldn’t go home on a dehydrated sugar and preservative high.

On reflection, I have considered what wasn’t in the box, and this party food pack stood out as one of the best I have seen. No lollies. No fatty, preservative laden, salty sausage rolls, chips, red-frankfurters, party pies or nuggets. No chocolate. No chips. No soft drink or cordial. The novelty of individualised portion controlled healthy meal-boxes was enough ‘party’ without being a ‘party pooper’. The fuel was appropriate to replenish little bodies that had not stopped moving for over an hour.

The food provided at this children’s birthday party was so much better than so much of the cheap, quick, easy and often lazy party food ‘included’ in the party packages of so many active birthday party venues. I always cringe when I see children fill themselves with unlimited supplies of nutrient-empty junk. When it happens at sporting venues masquerading as healthy party options, I am disappointed and baffled by their confusion. Why poison children like this? Why are supposedly healthy venues presenting such a contradictory message to children and families?

When I recently self-catered for a party at a sports venue we had the popcorn, fruit (including strawberries as treats!), carrot sticks, avocado and hummus dips, cheese cubes, wholemeal vegemite fingers, rice crackers, fairy bread (with high-fibre bread), and a ‘cake pop’ cake to top it off with a sprinkle of party celebration. And do you know what?

The ravenous children ate everything and only drank water. Kids do eat whatever you put in front of them when they are hungry and thirsty and surrounded by peers role-modelling behaviour they want to emulate.

Several friends’ parties have been catered for in a similar way, with mostly healthy options served and a handful of party ‘treats’ offered – I always breathe a sigh of relief! I worry about what we are doing to our wonderful children at parties, sometimes 2 or 3 events in a weekend, often serving them fillers pretending to be nourishing food and leaving no room for a healthy dinner later.

Let’s challenge venues not to fill children with junk, but to encourage healthy food choices to fuel hungry bodies.

Share ideas with them from TPJ’s website and think about what you can do at self-catered parties – small fruit jelly cups made with fruit juice, sushi and rice paper rolls, mini pizzas with veggies and low fat cheese, fruit kebabs, cherry tomatoes…

The opportunities are endless, don’t need to cost a lot of money or time and will be appreciated much more by the children and their relieved parents.

What treats do you like to see at kids birthday parties?

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