Healthy Recipes for Little Ones – Celebrations and Special Occasions

Children love to celebrate special occasions and events, such as birthdays, Christmas, Diwali and Halloween. However, much of the food and drinks offered during these celebrations is packed full of sugar and often fat and salt too! While it’s absolutely fine for children to have the occasional treat or two, multiple celebrations can mean lots of sugary treats! We’ve therefore dedicated this month’s blog to bringing you tips on adapting recipes, along with alternative ideas for celebrating!

Snack times are a great opportunity to get creative with themed recipes!

Consider the tips below when planning snacks across the week:

  • Provide a starchy food as part of at least one snack each day
  • Provide vegetables and fruit as part of some snacks
  • Provide a portion of beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins as part of snacks once or twice a week
  • It is best practice to provide three portions of milk and dairy foods each day; one of these can be provided as part of snacks
  • It’s best to avoid offering dried fruit at snack time because it sticks to children’s teeth and can cause tooth decay.

Examples of creative snacks we’ve made here at Early Start Nutrition:

Desserts and puddings are also a great time to get creative with themed recipes!

Consider the tips below when creating puddings and desserts:

  • Provide a dessert as part of lunch and tea each day
  • Desserts and cakes provide children with energy but should also contain essential nutrients, such as calcium and iron
  • Homemade cakes, desserts or puddings should be served with the largest main meal (typically lunch) and not at snack. This is better for children’s teeth!
  • Try using fruit sugars to sweeten desserts, puddings and cakes instead of table sugar
  • Try to include around 40g of fresh or 20g of dried fruit per portion in desserts which are fruit based
  • If tea is typically the lighter meal of the day, try to offer lighter puddings, such as fruit (e.g. seasonal fruit salad) and/or dairy based desserts such as yoghurt
  • Limit confectionery such as chocolate chips, hundreds and thousands as they contain no beneficial nutrients but a lot of sugar. If using these then try to use only as part of cakes or desserts
  • Avoid buying or making desserts and puddings with artificial sweeteners and preservatives as these are not suitable for young children.

Examples of creative desserts and puddings we’ve made here at Early Start Nutrition:

Adapting Recipes

When looking for recipe inspiration it’s likely that you’ll come across ones that contain ingredients that you’d rather avoid or limit. We find this is particularly common when it comes to celebrations and events! However, the good news is that it’s usually possible to adapt and tweak recipes to make them suitable for little ones.

Let’s take a look at how we could adapt the recipe below to make it more nutritious:

Suggested changes

  1. The sprinkles could be swapped for blueberries. This way children can expect to taste the blueberries when they bite into the cake and have exposure to their sensory properties
  2. Reduce the amount of caster sugar added to the recipe- as 500g is a lot! If we added some mashed banana to the cake mixture then more of the sweetness would be coming from fruit rather than the added sugar
  3. More blueberries could be added to the cake mix itself, along with extra blueberries for the decoration on top
  4. The icing sugar could be swapped for cream cheese. This will help to cut down on the amount of sugar in the recipe and provide children with protein and calcium.

Where can I find child friendly recipes?

Early Start Nutrition Team’s Social Media and Blogs

Here at Early Start Nutrition we love creating fun nutritious recipes for a range of events and celebrations!

Be sure to follow us on Twitter , Instagram and Facebook to explore out latest fun creations! Our YouTube channel also contains great recipe videos providing simple steps to making some of our favourite meals and snacks #eatinwithearlystart

First Steps Nutrition Trust

Provides families with guides and recipes books free of charge.


Change4Life provide fun recipe ideas to help keep children healthy

You can also get ideas and inspiration from:

  • Social Media-g. Instagram and Pinterest
  • Internet image searches– g. healthy Halloween snack ideas

Just be sure to adapt/ modify recipes to make them child friendly!

Be cautious of using recipes from the following sources:

  • Celebrity endorsed recipes available online and mobile apps – be aware that celebrity recipes may be affiliated with certain brands and products
  • Branded food industry websites– these recipes often promote their own brand of ingredients, which isn’t necessarily the most nutritious or affordable option.

Non food related celebration ideas

Not all celebrations and events need to be centred around food. Try some of the suggestions below instead:



  • Sing and/or Sign ‘Happy Birthday
  • Children get to wear a special birthday sash/ hat/ badge
  • Encourage children to create a cake made from playdough
  • Play party games such as musical status, pin the tail on the donkey, musical chairs
  • Plan a special game or activity
  • Have a dance party!

Special Occasions, such Christmas, Eid and Diwali


  • Special themed arts and crafts activities, such as cutting out snowflakes, drawings and colourings, cards or colourful paper lanterns
  • Decorate the room with creations from the children or balloons/ banners/ streamers
  • Singing traditional or cultural songs
  • Dressing up in a themed/ cultural outfits
  • Reading themed/ cultural story books

Don’t forget to tag us in your pictures is you make any of our creative foodie ideas!

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