To quote Julia Child, “A party without cake is just a meeting,” and now that school is back in session and the holiday season is quickly approaching, there will be tons of parties and celebrations for your child to attend. With this, comes all kinds of fun games, activities, and, of course, delicious treats. This can all be very exciting, but keep in mind it’s all fun and games until someone loses their lunch.
One of the best things about parties is all of the delicious food. Things like cake, ice cream, and soda are often present at a friend’s birthday party. A treasure trove of candies is diligently collected at Halloween. Delicious pies with whipped cream appear at Thanksgiving. And Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the candy canes, cookies, and pastries. These celebrations have become synonymous with food. But, as many of us have found out on probably more than one occasion, if you overdo it with any of these foods you can end up with a not-so-fun tummy ache.
So how can you, as a parent, help your child avoid this party-pooping pain (or not pooping, as the case may be!)? One solution is to simply say no. Do not allow your children to eat these foods. We strongly disagree with this approach. As a parent you want your children to be as healthy as possible. Part of that means making sure they eat nutritious foods and avoid foods that are over processed and contain lots of sugar and trans fats. There is a time, though, when you should let your child enjoy life’s indulgences. As long as there is no allergy, an occasional less-than-100%-healthy-slip in the diet is OK. Just don’t let it become a normal occurrence.
Another solution is to include whole foods in the treats you bring to parties. Why not make it a fun challenge for the next party you host? All dishes brought to your next party must contain a fruit, nut, or vegetable! There are quite a few recipes out there for treats that are just as delicious as “the real thing.” Some recipes omit ingredients that can upset the stomach, and replace them with more nutritious alternatives (like substituting all natural applesauce for butter or oil). Other recipes even include vegetables hidden inside, which is a good way to get picky eaters to get more veggies in their diet. (Try hiding zucchini in your next batch of brownies, or better yet, introduce your child to yummy zucchini bread!) You may also be surprised to learn that you can cut the sugar content of most of your favorite recipes, and they will taste equally as delicious (this may take some trial and error). This approach would allow your child to partake in the fun of eating treats without you having to worry as much about an adverse reaction from the digestive system.
Even better, change the definition of what constitutes as a treat in your home. Introduce your child to healthy, natural, yet fun and delicious sweets and snacks. Eating an apple shouldn’t be a punishment. Rather than saying, “No, you can’t have dessert. Here, eat this apple instead,” teach your child that apples, and other fruit, are dessert, because they are! If you feel you crave something more extravagant, try making fruit the star of the show. Fruit dipped in chocolate, or an apple with nut butter and a marshmallow smile, is a sweet treat with less sugar plus the benefits of whole raw fruit. Instead of potato chipsand dip, make a fun design with colorful veggies on a crudité spread, or try your hand at homemade pickling with your children. (Extra Bonus: If your child helps you prepare the dish, they will be more excited about eating these healthy treats!)
Perhaps one of the most important approaches to dealing with party season is to use it as an opportunity to teach your child about moderation. Moderation is something that is lacking in our society. We over consume everything. We binge watch TV. We spend all day staring at our phones. We work 40 hours a week, then stay late in the evenings, on top of going in to work on the weekends. We spend hours at a time on the Internet. We drink too much, and we over eat. The negative results of some of this binging is complicated for children to grasp, however drinking and eating too much can have immediate consequences that are easy for children to grasp. (I eat too much junk food = I feel sick to my stomach.) Why not use a buffet of delicious yet not-so-healthy foods as an opportunity to teach your child how to enjoy something without overdoing it? It will not only help prevent an upset stomach, it will set them up to make healthy choices throughout their life.
Party season is a time of celebration and fun. Nothing can bring that fun to a screeching halt quite like an upset stomach. While food is a big part of any party, teach your child to make healthful choices. If you go in with a plan, you will feel a little more confident that your child will survive without incident, and also learn some good life lessons along the way. Cake at a party can be great, but to quote the famous chef again, “Life itself is the proper binge.”