Nine Super-Useful Tips to Help Make Your Kid’s Birthday Party Low-Key Low-Carb
Kids. Love. Carbs. If you’ve ever tried to onboard your family to a low-carb plan after eating a more traditional Western diet, you already know that just about every meal that is a meal to kids is loaded with carbs. I’ve put together a list of cool, creative, kid-approved planning tactics to help you make a low-carb birthday party menu that is not only kid friendly but mom friendly.
Low-Carb Tip #1: Move the needle a little from keto to low-carb, just for the day
The average American eats anywhere from 200 grams to 400 grams of carbs a day according to Diabetes Self-Management. The minimum recommended amount of carbs for kids (and grownups) is 130 grams a day (or the equivalent of 130g of glucose for fuel). To keep from driving yourself crazy, think in terms of low-carb, not strict keto and aim to create a menu that will keep party food carb count under 70 grams. By the way, the other parents will thank you. Carbs make kids act a little crazy.
Low-Carb Tip #2: Use high-fiber to cheat the carb count
We’re not talking about BeneFiber and prune juice here, so don’t worry. But, you can expand your menu options by thinking in terms of net carbs and looking for sweet, high-fiber fruit. I mean, eggplant is a starchy fruit, and half the carbs in eggplant are pure fiber. But it may not be the answer for a kid’s party (yuck, right?). But I would bet raspberries (53% fiber) and blackberries (57% fiber) would be big winners with kids. They’re sweet, juicy, and they’re finger foods. Keep the handi-wipes… well, handy.
Low-Carb Tip #3: Put healthy foods in fancy cups
This one works well with elementary school kids. For instance, this low-carb chia ‘porridge’ with raspberries looks far more appealing in a dessert dish than it would in a paper plate. It’s lightly sweetened, creamy, fun to eat, and topped with bright red raspberries (available mid-summer to late fall). Coincidentally, you can find the recipe for low-carb chia porridge here.
Low-Carb Tip #4: Swap out regular candy for pre-packaged, low-carb treats
The geniuses at Atkins have a selection of low-carb and no-carb candies that are downright amazing. The Atkins brand of low-carb candies mimics the popular brands we grew up with – M&M’s, Mounds, Reese’s, and also comes as cookies, granola bars, energy bars, and protein bars. And they are delicious. But be warned, these candies use sugar alcohols. Some kids have tummy sensitivities to sugar alcohols. So, always ask Mom and Dad first.
Low-Carb Tip #4: Make protein shake smoothies
At three years old, my daughter loves “proteem shapes”. I try to keep a stash in the house. For her, we alternate between Kid Essentials and low-carb shakes because she’s going through the period tots go through when they essentially stop eating food altogether.
If you prefer a low-carb shake, there are several brands you can easily use as a base for your smoothies. SlimFast Advanced Nutrition (be sure it’s Advanced Nutrition – the regular SlimFast is high in carbs) is a line of high-protein, low-carb shakes that come in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and either fudge or dark chocolate. Other brands include AdvantEdge, Atkins, or Muscle Milk shakes. These are also cool because they’re so low in carbs, they leave you with wiggle room to add fruit to the smoothies and a heavy whip cream.
Low-Carb Tip #5: Avocado – the 9th Wonder of the World
Avocado is sort of a love it or hate it kind of fruit, I know. The nutty taste and creamy texture (and let’s not forget it’s green) can turn some kids off. But it’s high in healthy fats, and high in protein and fiber. Plus, avocado is ultra-low in carbs. Perhaps most important for your use is its flexibility. I found a recipe for an avocado chocolate mousse on WellPlated.com that is fantastic.
Low-Carb Tip #6: Replace drink boxes with water, but in a cool way
Do you know 91% of the kids in this country grab 10% of their daily calories (209 calories) just from sugary drinks? If you really want to make a statement (and cut the sugar, and add another party favor to the mix, and save the earth…), nix the juice boxes (even if they’re real juice) and give each kid their very own sports bottle. You can find them at your local discount store, or even a dollar store. Keep a dispenser of ice water available and let them refill their bottles as needed. They can use permanent markets to write their names on their own bottles to prevent mix-ups.
Low-Carb Tip #7: Make more foods finger foods
I’ve seen deconstructed spring rolls and deconstructed shirts (that’s a real thing). Choose a few dishes to deconstruct. The idea behind this is to make foods quick, easy, and fun to eat at the party. Kids graze. And when it’s party time, they want to party. So, while you may feel like they need to “sit down to a meal” it’s unlikely they feel the same way. Instead of ziti, season-up the tomatoes and mozzarella and serve them separately.
Low-Carb Tip #8: Replace cake with mini cupcakes
Try as we might, it’s always hard to figure out exactly how much a “small slice of cake” really is. In fact, my idea of a small slice differs from… say, a buttercream cake to a Cheesecake Factory 7-layer chocolate cake. Here’s a hint: When Cheesecake Factory gets involved, they’re all small slices to me.
That said, portion control (and therefore carb control) is much easier when serving sizes are already defined. So, swap out the birthday cake for birthday cupcakes, if you can get away with it. A small slice of buttercream cake is 200 calories, 20 grams of carbs and 30 grams of sugar. A mini cupcake (which is missing that middle layer of icing), on the other hand total 93 calories, 14 grams of carbs, and 10 grams of sugar. If your little one has his or her heart set on a traditional cake, make it a single-layer sheet cake.
Low-Carb Tip #9: Build in carb-burning activities
The fastest way to rebound and stay in ketosis when you’ve had too many carbs is to immediately use up glycogen stores. In kid-eese, that translates to running around and organized physical activities. What kinds of activities do kids love?
• Water pump fights (in case you don’t love guns)
• Three-legged races or potato sack / pillow case races
• Burpees (kids can do these forever)
From the low-sugar cereals to the Cuties mandarins, carbs – and lots of them – are a staple for school-aged kids. But if you’re creative and a little carb-flexible, you can eliminate the majority of would-be carbs from the party menu and your kids won’t even notice and the moms will be thrilled that you are providing healthier options.