October 2022 – Healthy Celebrations

October 2022 – Healthy Celebrations

Parties can be a fun way to celebrate special occasions and holidays! They usually involve decorations, games, and music! They also commonly include cake, ice cream, cookies, and candy. While traditional party foods are okay to serve occasionally, they do not have to be the focus. Birthdays, holidays, and other special events are great chances to promote healthy eating and active play.

Involve children, families, and staff in planning and preparing for celebrations. The following ideas will help you include healthy options for special events!

Two Cute Kids Jumping

Healthy Foods for Celebrations

Serve healthy foods in a fun way. Get children involved in making these fun and good-for-you treats. As always, be mindful of choking hazards and food allergies for children.

  • Fruit kabobs: Supply blunt-ended skewers and fresh fruit like cut-up grapes, strawberries, kiwi slices, and apple wedges for the children to make their fruit kabobs. For younger children, skip the skewers and provide a rainbow of colorful fruits they can enjoy.
  • Fruit pizza: A whole grain crust such as a pita or tortilla, yogurt spread, and fresh fruit make this a tasty treat! Check out this Fun Fruit Breakfast Pizza recipe.
  • Fruit salad: Mix a rainbow of fruit pieces in a bowl with a small amount of yogurt.
  • Popcorn party: Popcorn is a whole grain and fun snack. Skip the butter and salt and add other homemade seasonings to keep it a healthy treat. Check out these easy and healthy popcorn flavor recipes.
  • Yogurt parfait: Let the children layer yogurt, granola or crunchy cereal, and fruit such as blueberries and raspberries in clear plastic cups so they can see their colorful creations.
  • Trail mix: Children can assemble their mix from the following: whole grain cereals (try different shapes like squares, O’s, and puff-type cereals), dried fruit, pretzels, nuts, etc.
  • Freezer pops: Freeze 100% fruit juice and enjoy on a warm day.
fruits image
Seasonal Fruit And Yogurt Parfaits 500x500 1

Festive Foods

Make healthy foods fun and festive with these ideas.

  • Holiday fun: Turn oranges into pumpkins or string cheese packages into ghosts by drawing faces on them.
  • Fun shapes: Use cookie cutters to cut fruits, cheese, sandwiches, or bread into shapes that fit the theme (such as hearts, flowers, leaves, stars, or pumpkins).
  • Get colorful:
    • Choose foods that fit the festivities, such as red fruits like strawberries for Valentine’s Day; or red, white, and blue fruits (ex., watermelon, bananas, and blueberries) for Independence Day.
    • Scatter colorful or holiday-themed sprinkles onto oatmeal or yogurt.
    • Serve food on colorful plates and drinks in festive cups.

Non-Food Favors

Hand out festive favors instead of candy or treats. Here are some ideas.

  • Books
  • Bubbles
  • Chalk
  • Coloring books
  • Crayons
  • Erasers
  • Pencils
  • Playdough
  • Rulers
  • Slap bracelets
  • Stamps
  • Stickers
Beautiful Toddler Listening To Music Using Headphones Standing At Kindergarten

Creative Activities

Celebrate holidays and special events with fun and engaging activities.

  • Dance party: Host a dance party and let children be the DJs.
  • Group activities: Have a mini talent show, scavenger hunt, or show-and-tell.
  • Decorate together: Create centerpieces, banners, placemats, signs, cards, bracelets, or headbands.
  • Game time: Plan activities like soccer, obstacle courses, tag, ball tosses, or jump rope.
  • Healthy Halloween: Instead of candy, children can dress up and trick-or-treat for trinkets, toys, and other fun non-food items.
Birthday Girl With Confetti 1 Scaled

Birthday Celebrations

Celebrate children on their birthdays with fun activities instead of with food.

  • Special treatment: The birthday child gets privileges for the day, like being the teacher’s helper, sitting next to the teacher during meals or circle time, wearing a birthday crown or badge, or choosing a game or activity for the class to play.
  • Sharing time: Allow the child to bring in a special book, a favorite toy, or an item to share with their friends.
  • Group celebration: Plan one party each month to celebrate all the birthdays in that month instead of hosting a separate celebration for each child. Check out the Creative Activities section above for ideas.

Get Family Support

Include food celebration policies in family orientation materials. Request that families bring in healthy snacks or non-food items when they want to provide a special treat. Provide a list of healthy food and non-food options. If you ask families to contribute a food item for a special event, create a sign-up that includes only healthy options.

Healthy Bites provides sample letters and forms to send to families about how to keep celebrations healthy. “Appendix H” provides a list of healthy foods, non-food activity ideas, and a sample Birthday Request Form. “Appendix I” provides a sample letter to families with healthy celebration suggestions.

Items Brought From Home

Keep children with food allergies safe and request that food brought from home be store-bought only. Foods should have a label containing ingredients to identify allergens.

Checking Comparison Websites

More Information

For more ideas on how to celebrate specific holidays in a healthy way, check out USDA’s Team Nutrition Classroom Celebrations.

Mealtime Discussion Prompts

During mealtime, spark positive conversations with children about healthy celebrations using the questions below.

  • What are some family events or celebrations you enjoy at home?
  • How do you celebrate birthdays or holidays?
  • What foods do you eat at these special events?
  • Do you help decorate or make food for the celebrations?
  • What is your favorite holiday and why?

Menu Ideas

The following menu ideas provide a variety of foods, colors, and textures, along with ideas for connections to certain holidays. Some recipes contain multiple food components listed in parentheses after the recipe.


Cinco de Mayo Celebration

Breakfast Burrito Sm

Breakfast Burrito with Salsa

Clementine Oranges

1% Milk


Chinese New Year Celebration

Chicken Stir Fry 300x202 1

Chicken Stir-Fry
(Meat, Vegetable)

Red Grapes

Brown Rice

1% Milk



Cran Orange Relish 800x539

Cran-Orange Relish

Cinnamon Pita Wedges

Recipes Clipart 800x533

You can find the featured recipes from the Menu Ideas section in the resources below:


Bond, S. (2020, March 16). Easy homemade popcorn seasoning. Live Eat Learn. https://www.liveeatlearn.com/easy-homemade-popcorn-seasoning/

Institute of Child Nutrition. (n.d.). Breakfast burrito with salsa – USDA recipe for child care centers. Child Nutrition Recipe Box.https://theicn.org/cnrb/recipes-for-centers-breakfast/breakfast-burrito-with-salsa-usda-recipe-for-cacfp/

Institute of Child Nutrition. (n.d.). Breakfast pizza with hashbrown crust – USDA recipe for child care centers. Child Nutrition Recipe Box. https://theicn.org/cnrb/recipes-for-centers-breakfast/breakfast-pizza-with-hashbrown-crust-usda-recipe-for-cacfp/

Institute of Child Nutrition. (n.d.). Chicken stir-fry – USDA recipe for child care centers. Child Nutrition Recipe Box. https://theicn.org/cnrb/recipes-for-centers-main-dishes/chicken-stir-fry-usda-recipe-for-cacfp/

Institute of Child Nutrition. (n.d.). Child nutrition recipe box. https://theicn.org/cnrb/

Institute of Child Nutrition. (n.d.). Cran-orange relish – USDA recipe for child care centers. Child Nutrition Recipe Box. https://theicn.org/cnrb/recipes-for-centers-accompaniments/cran-orange-relish-usda-recipe-for-cacfp/

Institute of Child Nutrition. (n.d.). Fun fruit breakfast pizza – USDA recipe for child care centers. Child Nutrition Recipe Box. https://theicn.org/cnrb/recipes-for-centers-breakfast/fun-fruit-breakfast-pizza-usda-recipe-for-cacfp/

Institute of Child Nutrition. (n.d.). New CACFP lunch/supper recipes. Child Nutrition Recipe Box. https://theicn.org/cnrb/2022-cacfp-recipes/

Oregon State University. (2020, March 3). Healthy and fun celebrations at home, school or anywhere. Food Hero. https://foodhero.org/magazines/healthy-and-fun-celebrations

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (2014, April 10). Discover MyPlate teacher’s guide classroom celebrations. https://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/tn/dmp_tgcelebrations.pdf

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (2018, September 13). Nibbles for health: Healthy celebrations, lasting memories. https://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/resource-files/NibblesHealthyCelebrations_Eng.pdf

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. (2019, May). Healthy bites: A Wisconsin guide for improving childhood nutrition. 2nd ed. https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/community-nutrition/pdf/HealthyBites.pdf

Archived Mealtime Memos



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