Junk food, or foods rich in sugar and unhealthy fats, such as chocolates, carbonate cold drinks, sweets, ice cream and cakes are fine in moderation. However, the problem occurs when one's kids are attending one or more parties per week, getting junk food at school, when visiting granny etc.
Sugary foods may play a role in hyperactivity and rotting teeth (evidence is controversial), but just as importantly, junk food is very low in nutritional value. Kids that are filling up on the above foods will be displacing healthier options from their diet. It is also a good idea to try teaching children to associate parties with fun activities with their friends and wholesome food rather than an opportunity to gorge on junk food.
The snacks below are not necessarily low in fat, but are healthier, more filling and have less preservatives and flavourants.
- Mini pizzas and hotdogs. Use chicken or ostrich sausage in the hotdogs (preferably wholewheat hot dog rolls) and sneak veggies and fruit onto the pizza (eg. spinach, red peppers, banana, pineapple).
- Popcorn balls – mix freshly popped popcorn with a coloured syrup or honey into balls and place on a stick or straw.
- Toffee apples - keeps kids busy for a long time and they might even eat some of the apple itself.
- Orange jelly slices. Set jelly (using water and fruit juice) in halved oranges with the flesh scooped out. Once set, cut in half to make quarters.
- Sandwich shapes - use finely shaved biltong, marmite and cheese to make sandwiches, and then cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.
- Instead of chips, serve popcorn, pretzels and baked corn chips. Also put out dried fruit and nut mix or peanuts and raisins.
- Make a punch out of 100% fruit juices, and use soda or sparkling water to add a fizz. Freeze juice into shaped ice cubes, and float them in the punch along with freshly chopped fruits.
- Fresh fruit skewers - use chopped seasonal fruit and thin straws or blunt wooden skewers. Serve with a low-fat yoghurt dip.
- Fruit ices - use fresh fruit juice to make ice lollies.
- Crudite - arrange baby tomatoes, mushrooms, baby corn, cucumber and carrot sticks around a dip such as low-fat cottage cheese and chip dip powder.
- Marie faces. Use icing, made from icing sugar and water, to decorate Marie biscuits. Use liquorice to make the faces.
- Boudoir/finger biscuit racing cars - use Smarties or Jelly Tots for wheels and a jelly baby for the racer. (Once again, use water icing to stick wheels on.)
- Marshmallow treats - buy or make your own with Rice Crispies and melted marshmallows.
- The cake - substitute the usual butter icing with icing and water to make it less rich.
The Goodie box
Try to fill it with non-food items as well as some birthday cake and maybe one or two individually wrapped chocolates (mini chocolate bars). Gift ideas include:
- Bubble blower
- Bouncy ball
For more ideas, read Karen’s book Skinny Snacks.
Written by Karen Protheroe, registered dietician.