A Healthy First Birthday Party (Yes, With Cake!)

My son turns 1 today! How is it possible that his first birthday is here already? I can hardly believe it’s been a whole year since he entered this crazy world. He’s the sweetest little boy I’ve ever known. He’s curious, and smart, and silly, and determined, and well, he’s just amazing!

Planning a healthy first birthday party

As my husband and I prepare for this weekend’s birthday party, I’m trying to get a few house projects done as well as plan out the food that we’ll serve. I love hosting parties. I get that from my mom, who has always been an incredible hostess. Not only does she rock a planned party, but she’s also somehow amazing at having something on hand to feed whoever comes by, no matter how many unexpected guests she may have. Growing up, our house was always the party house! As much as I’ve learned from her over the years, part of me still doesn’t know quite how she does it so seamlessly.

Now that I’m a mom, and my parents have downsized to move to be near us (yay!), it seems that, to an extent, the party torch has been passed. I don’t mind. In fact, I kind of love it! But being a Nutrition Coach means that I over-think the food offerings a bit more than most people would. I want to provide something that vaguely resembles healthy food, while still hosting a party that people actually want to come to! To give you an idea of how I find that balance, I thought I’d share my planning for this First Birthday Party we’re hosting in a couple days. We’re having about 25 people in our little townhouse, so it’s going to be a ton of fun!

The Main Food

My requirements for a healthy and fun party include making sure that veggies make an appearance (they often don’t at parties!), there are protein options, and that the carbs don’t completely take over the table. They’re certainly there, because they’re not something to avoid or be afraid of. But I try to balance the offerings by upping the other stuff and lessening the onslaught of carbs that tends to predominate most parties.

It’s summer. It’s also Fourth of July weekend. The weather is supposed to be 90 degrees and mostly sunny. We’re definitely going to be grilling!

Burgers are a definite, and we’ll also do some marinated chicken. My mom is bringing a cold salad, and also grilled vegetables. We’ll have guacamole and hummus, with carrots to dip in addition to chips and crackers. I’ll also make a pasta salad of some sort, but I haven’t decided what recipe to use yet. So, protein and veggies – check! Carbs – check! Food people will actually eat so they come back again in the future – check!

And of course, there will be cake!

How to throw a healthy birthday party, including cake! First birthday cake, burgers, and fun!Kiddo will get his own smash cake, because that’s just plain fun, let’s be honest! He got in a practice run at his 1-year photo shoot a couple of weeks ago too. How cute is that photo!?! I have a chocolate cake recipe that has been used in my family for many, many years. It’s been used for all of my own birthday cakes that mom has made me (and yes, she still makes it every year!). I’m really excited that his cake has a bit of sentimentality to it.

I have a feeling though, that some people might be surprised I’m planning to *gasp!* feed my kid sugar. When Googling some icing recipes, I was amazed at how many “healthy” smash cake recipes there were out there. Many of them were posted by people who wanted to avoid giving their one-year-old child sugar at all costs. (Ironically enough, they were still giving them sugar. They just apparently didn’t consider honey, maple syrup, fruit juice concentrate, or raw, organic, unicorn-kissed coconut sugar to still be sugar. But I digress.)

Yes, feeding children lots of sugar is not something I’d advise. But there is quite a big gray area between zero and a lot!

Do we “healthify” it?

Since I tend to enjoy fiddling with recipes, and healthifying many of the ones I come across, I think many people might assume I would do that with kiddo’s cake. But I’m not going to.

Healthified desserts certainly have their place. I like experimenting with sneaking in veggies, or lowering the sugar, or using sugar-free sweeteners, or using applesauce in place of oil, or any number of other tweaks in the name of raising the nutrition (heh!) of the recipe. There are times when a healthier, sort of weird, lightened up version of a dessert will do. Those times are when I’m by myself, or it’s just hubby and I, and I feel like something sweet without swallowing a ton of calories at once.

However, eating healthfully includes being able to eat full blown real desserts. My child’s first birthday is not a time to experiment with sugar-free stuff or make a cake out of beans. (I’ve done that by the way, and it’s not half bad! But it is not a birthday cake.)[bctt tweet=”My child’s first birthday is not a time to try sugar-free stuff or make a cake out of beans.” username=”raisingnutritn”]

I think that sometimes, as a Nutrition Coach, people assume I eat what they consider to be “perfectly.” They assume I don’t eat desserts, or only eat healthier desserts, or that I’d never feed “that stuff” to my child, or that I never eat [any food that they consider “bad.”] (Newsflash: There are no good or bad foods!) I admit, at first, I felt like I SHOULD hold myself to that high of a standard! I’m setting an example for clients, after all. Shouldn’t I show them that it’s possible to have willpower that’s made of steel?

No. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s actually vitally important to show them that I’m HUMAN!

It is possible to take “healthy” too far

There is a point of obsession, and ultimately restriction, that can be reached when a person focuses too much on which foods are “good” and which ones are “bad”, working tirelessly to avoid the “bad” ones. I use quotes there because I don’t believe there ARE good or bad foods! That’s actually entirely the point I’m trying make. Desserts aren’t bad. Sugar isn’t bad. (Sugar substitutes aren’t bad either.) There is no food that is so bad that including it in your diet is going to cause any harm (except food allergies, obviously).

When it comes to desserts, it is healthy to include them, because not allowing yourself to eat them leads to a slippery slope of restriction and diet rules and the never-ending diet cycle. Not only is that no fun, but it’s counterproductive to living an enjoyably healthy life.

This is an important thing to learn, not only for ourselves, but for our children. We have the best of intentions when we say we’re not going to allow our kids to have sugar. Believe me, I get it. I don’t want to raise a child who thinks cookies are their own food group either! But rather than categorizing foods into good and bad, essentially giving a moral judgment to the things we eat, as well as ourselves for eating them, it’s a much more reasonable approach to manage things with an air of moderation.

Yes, I’m basically saying “Let them eat cake!” Should it be something you, or your child, eat every single day in place of other, more nutritious foods? No, of course not. But don’t drive yourself crazy trying to restrict it either. As always, the healthiest balance is somewhere in the middle.

Enjoy your Fourth of July weekend, everyone!

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