"It's Just One Cupcake… What's the Big Deal?"

Surprisingly, the most difficult, heated, complicated, divisive discussions in school health right now do not have to do with sex education, but celebrations and competitive foods (vending/fundraisers). I recently saw a friend post on Facebook that she brought cupcakes to her son's pre-school birthday party. I texted her that she was killing me! Her response? It's the last year he gets them. Well, I didn't respond, but I don't think she got it. I'm not against cupcakes or sugar. But, here's the point...

Jill Turley, the Competitive Food Content Advisor for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation recently presented at the Smart Snacks Summit in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. She asked, "Have you heard, It's just one cupcake… what's the big deal?" I chuckled thinking it was only days prior I heard the same argument. Jill showed a recent photo of a elementary school student's plate after a Valentine's Day celebration. Almost 600 calories. Never mind how many students visited the nurses office as a result of a headache after. Or, the behavior in the classroom post-celebration. Jill mentioned that in a class of 20 students, if every kid had cupcakes for their birthday, that amounts to over 10,000 extra calories a year for these students. For an adult, that's an extra 10lbs a year.

And again, what about the time off-task as a result of the sugar… isn't school about creating consistently healthy messages? Our youth are getting plenty of sugar outside of schools. Let's keep schools a place where what they learn in nutrition education is consistent with healthy messages, policies and practices. Rewarding students with food leads to encouraging them to eat when they are not necessarily hungry, and these become learned behaviors in adulthood that we know are contributing to overeating and adult obesity issues. 

So, what are some ideas for birthday celebrations? Most of these come from Jill's presentation (thanks Jill!):

  • Dance party with a special playlist
  • Extra playtime
  • Show and tell
  • Scavenger hunt

If you still want to have food:

  • Spa water (kids pick their own veggies and fruits to add (cucumbers, mint, strawberries, oranges, bananas, etc)
  • Fruit smoothies
  • Fruits and veggies
  • Yogurt parfaits
  • Trail Mix bar (they get a bag and create their own with different options. If you can't use nuts, use seeds!
  • Roll ups- have cookie cutters to make shapes

If you weren't able to attend the The Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Smart Snack Summits last week which provided professional development, resources and information on the new federal regulations on smart snacks in school that go into affect July 1, you can go here to find out more. 

I was invited by Jacy Wooley, western Kentucky Program Manager for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The training participants included district food service directors, health and PE teachers, school board members, Department of Education representative, administrators and other school health advocates. Thanks for the invite Jacy... fabulous, informative workshop!