Birthday Party Food & Sweets

Archived Q&A and Reviews

What to do about birthday party candy

April 2008

My kids must be getting older (they're elementary school age) because now they're coming home with candy from birthday party pinatas and goodie bags, in Valentine's Day cards from classmates (despite the school's ''no candy'' policy), Easter egg hunts... No more of the ''healthy snack'' and ''candy alternative'' stuff that was always enforced in preschool! Anyway, I'm trying to figure out how to moderate my kids' consumption of the candy that they bring home after these occasions. I would say this comes up at least once a month.

For Halloween, we follow the ''three day rule'' (eat as much candy as they want for three days, then throw out the rest), as it has been recommended by dentists and on this parents network. I figured this was just a once-a-year thing, which I can live with, but have been caught totally unawares by these birthday parties, etc! Should I allow them the ''three day rule'' whenever these other occasions arise? Or let them eat a few pieces post-party and go straight to the ''Switch Witch''? (Though somehow I dislike the idea that I would have to ''bribe'' my kids to not eat candy by playing the ''Switch Witch'' every time.)

I will say that we don't usually keep candy around the house; however, I normally do allow my kids other sweets (cookies, ice cream) in moderation--so I'm not interested in hearing opinions about avoiding refined sugar, etc. Thanks. Confused about candy

We also experienced the same problem when our son hit elementary school. We allow desserts 1x/week at home (I can't control the birthday goodies that are distributed at school without making my teacher do more policing than she already does and make my child a social outcast which I don't want to do, over this issue anyway). So, if my son brings home candy from parties, school, etc., I remind him about what day of the week is dessert week and then we put it away until then. If he asks for it that night, I bring it out and he has a piece. Usually after eating one piece he never asks for it again and I simply throw it out. Good luck! HOpefully someday the food will change to something healthier! CAHappy
We take every piece of candy my son recieves on all holidays/parties, etc and we put it in this big glass jar. It is unbelievably FULL, with every kind of candy you could imagine (and we never buy candy). Then we let him pick a piece from the jar after dinner. He doesn't always remember to ask for it, and we don't remind him if he doesn't ask. But when he says ''where is my after dinner candy'' we pull down the jar and let him pick whatever he wants. That way we don't throw it out, his consumption is always moderate (I know some think one piece of candy every other day is outlandish sugar consumption, but we will have to agree to disagree on that one), and he feels happy and in control. Its worked really well for us. I even sometimes ask him ''do you mind if I have a piece of candy from your candy jar''? If he says yes, then I can have a piece. If he says no, then too bad for me! He usually says yes, and it makes him feel really good to share. a little candy never killed anyone
This may not work with your kids for sure, but it works wonders with mine: I say, ''Have one piece of candy, then we'll put the rest in the freezer and save it for the next time we go to a movie.'' I ended up, at first, with a huge freezer bag full of candy, but eventually realized that the candy was completely forgotten. So (cue in evil mom laugh here) I threw it all away. I did the same with the Valentines and Easter candy. Mind you, I do not toss it right away. I make sure the candy is good and forgotten first. There is always a new collection of candy around the corner that seems to help the forgetting along. Good luck! Meg

What Food to Serve at 4yr B-day Party?

Sept 2005

Hi, Can anyone send out some ideas they have regarding food options for a 4yr old birthday party. I don't want to serve pizza (love it but tired of it). Thanks! anon

I'm not sure who is attending the party, but I just did a 4 year old party for my son a few weeks ago. He loves any food he can dip in something. So I took him to Trader Joes's with me and he picked out a wide variety of dips that sounded good to him and a bunch of dipping items--bread, veggies, fruit, etc. We had a dipping party! It was a lot of fun and he ate quite well. It's also very easy to do. I made a fruit dip with yogurt and a little fruit spread, but otherwise I bought the dips. Jennifer
At my daughter's 4th birthday I served a large tray of sandwiches (egg salad, pb, creamcheese & jam) on a variety of bread and used cookie cutters to make them into fun shapes. The kids seem to really enjoy them. I broiled a large fillet of salmon and had a salad for the adults but noticed that the adults ate the sandwiches too. Linnea
Peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches with the crust cut off and cut into triangles or squares. Or hot dogs. Protien is a good start before the cake. Cut up watermelon and grapes. And maybe pretzels or those natural cheese puffs or something crunchy. Have fun!
I don't remember doing this, but apparently the Annie's Mac & Cheese with frozen peas that I added were a hit with the kids at my daughter's b'day party last year. You don't have to do annies, but mac & cheese is usually easy and usually universally loved. Peas adds a veggie that kids don't mind much. janet
This year for a joint party for my 2 and 5 year olds we made mini sandwiches with cookie cutter cutouts. They took a bit of work to make (maybe 1 hour for two loaves of bread) but were just the right portion for small kids and could be done ahead.

You need a small (about 1'' or so) cookie cutter and fairly firm but not too crumbly bread to make this work easily. Take two slices of bread, set aside one, cut four cutouts in the four quadrants of the other, assemble the sandwich using the whole slice of the bread and the slice you've cut out of, cut the sandwich into quarters. Use leftover cutout centers to make mini sandwiches (very popular with the kids). We did almond butter and jam, cheese and meat, and cream cheese and jam, and I used white bread for the tops and wheat for the bottoms, from similar shaped loaves. On average the kids ate maybe 1+ tiny sandwiches each (ie, two slices of bread makes enough for ~ 2-3 kids). We also had pretzels, grapes, carrot sticks and cake.

Another party we attended at a park had a variety of snacky foods (goldfish crackers, raisins, veggie tray, etc.) set out, but also quesedillas. The mom said she did them all at once in the oven wrapped in foil: just stack tortilla, cheese, tortilla, tortilla, cheese, tortilla etc. and wrap the whole mass in foil and bake for a while. They were still slightly warm even after an hour or two at the park, and the kids loved them.

Ask your kid for suggestions - at least you know one kid will love it! In general I find it hard to underestimate how much kids will eat at parties, even the sweets. - Charis

I just had our 5 year old's birthday party and was really successful finding food for it at Costco. I picked up finger-y foods for the kids... cheese, veggie tray, pretzels, nuts, grapes... and then a tray of turkey wraps and a tray of club sandwiches for grownups and daring kids. The best part was that I didn't have to cook a thing. The kids were revved up and more excited about the cake then anything. I had food leftover and I felt like other than the cake I didn't serve icky stuff and everyone was relatively happy. Happy party! Anon

Food for 2-year-olds at birthday party

March 2005

My daughter's 2nd birthday party is next month. We are having it at the Albany YMCA Kindergym on a Saturday from 3:30 till 5:30. Since this falls right during dinner time for many toddlers, we are going to serve some food along with the cupcakes. My question is: what can we serve that is not too messy but that toddlers will like? I thought about pizza, but my daughter doesn't like it, so I don't know how the other kids will feel. Will kids (and their parents) be satisfied with finger foods like veggies, fruit, cheese, olives? Or, should I figure out something more substantial? Dawn

I always like to serve PB sandwiches cut into shapes with cookie cutters (stars, hearts, etc.)at toddler parties. If you don't want to do PB do cream cheese and jelly or just strawberry flavored cream cheese. Also, mini bagels, taquitos, chicken nuggets (traderjoes has yummy ones). Pasta salad is also popular. Have fun! Jen
Mac and cheese is always a winner with kids and adults. (You can even make a vegan version with brown rice pasta and vegan ''cheese''--I know because we make this for our wheat/lactose intolerant son.) Clarisse

Non-BBQ picnic food for birthday party picnic

May 2004

We're going to have a picnic-in-the-park birthday party and want to bring (cater?) food without having to barbecue (so we can enjoy the party). Any recommendations for types of food and/or specific restaurants that cater? Thanks. Drea

How about pasta salad, chips, dips, crackers, cheeses, rollup sandwiches (made with lavosh bread, cream cheese, vegies, turkey), pre-made chicken. Or you could do deli platters and salads. Amanda
We used Rick & Ann's near the Claremont for our son's 3-year birthday party. Go to their Web site (I think it's and check out their offerings and prices. You can email them with questions and arrange for pickup at your convenience. The food is awesome and I thought reasonably priced compared to some other places we checked. Laura
We just had my son's 1st birthday party at a park. We had Togo's sandwich trays, which were awesome. We got two trays that each had three kinds of sandwiches to choose from. You can pick any type that you want. They were ready to go right on time (right when they opened), and they were very helpful and friendly... I got them from the Togo's at El Cerrito Plaza. We just supplied chips and drinks (and a cake, course) and were able to enjoy the party!! Have fun! Jen
Check out the fried chicken boxed meals at Albertsons. We did that for one of my son's parties. It was pretty inexpensive and included potato salad or macaroni salad and bread. If you combine this with bagged ceasar salad mix (very cheap at Costco) it should be pretty easy to pull off. a lazy mom
My son has a summer birthday and I have had success preparing a variety of salads. Something with meat, something totally veggie and some sort of third option. The food always disappears and it's easy to move around. Usually it's warm so the food temp is appreciated. DL