The Birthday Cupcake Moral Dilemma (and the solution!)

I usually never know what’s going to spark a lot of conversation on my Facebook page, and the fact that my recent “birthday cupcake dilemma” quickly spawned over 2,700 comments was honestly quite a surprise! I was truly at a loss though and since I always learn so much from our readers I often turn to you guys when I need advice.

This is what my Facebook post said:

“I am in a bit of a bind (which I totally recognize is a first world problem by the way), but I would love some advice. My daughter turns 8 next week and since all the kids in her class bring cupcakes (or cookies or donuts) for the whole class on their birthday she’d like to follow suit.

Here’s the problem: The school no longer allows us to bring in homemade baked goods for the class! It has to be from a commercial kitchen and because her class is nut-free it also has to be from a certified nut-free kitchen (no cross contamination). Believe me I’ve tried and I cannot find any wholesome bakeries around here that are also nut-free. And I refuse to overnight cupcakes from NYC for a bunch of 2nd graders…not an option! The school’s ‘approved’ cupcakes from their cafeteria are highly processed and full of chemicals and artificial ingredients. It’s totally against everything I believe in to support products like that.

BUT it’s important to my daughter to be able to celebrate like her friends have. Does anyone have a viable solution or should I just suck it up and serve her class something highly processed and artificial? Yikes!!!”

In summary, these were my constraints:The birthday cupcake dilemma by 100 Days of Real Food

  • My daughter specifically asked if she could share cupcakes with her class…and as her mommy I do like to do what I can to make my birthday girls happy! If it were up to me I would probably do something other than food to celebrate at school, but again cupcakes are what the other kids bring so that’s what my birthday girl requested as well.
  • There is a (new this year) no homemade food rule at her school. Everything that’s shared with the class must come from a commercial kitchen. (You can send homemade items for your individual child only).
  • My daughter happens to be in the one nut-free classroom for the 2nd grade. This means several children in her class do in fact have an allergy to peanuts and/or tree nuts therefore no food can be brought in (on any day…in her personal lunchbox or otherwise) that has been made in a facility that also processes nuts. So purchasing cupcakes that don’t contain nuts from a local bakery is not enough. I would have to find a bakery that does not make a single product (ever) that contains nuts! Not an easy feat here in Charlotte, NC.
  • The school cafeteria sells highly processed birthday cupcakes that are certified nut-free, but they are also full of chemicals, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. I’ve seen the boxed mix that they use (they are most definitely not made from scratch). I let my kids participate and eat these cupcakes (or cookies or donuts or whatever the parent decides to bring in) when it’s someone else’s birthday, BUT the truth is I don’t like how someone else is giving my kids junk food every.single.time it’s one of the 20+ kids’ birthdays in their class. Isn’t that what birthday parties (outside of school) are for? And here’s the kicker…since I’ve somewhat dedicated my life (through this blog) to trying to influence others to cut out processed food it’s kind of a moral dilemma for me to purchase and feed total crap to my kid and the rest of her class. I normally go out of my way to feed anyone and everyone I know the most wholesome food possible – to show how good real food can be! – so it’s only natural for me to feel highly uncomfortable about violating an important personal belief of mine.

All the Advice

So what’s one to do? Ask my Facebook crew for some advice. And man were there some heated responses that frankly were all over the board. Yes, people feel emotional about food decisions – me included. Some readers suggested good non-cupcake alternatives (like fruit kabobs, all fruit popsicles or non-food items like goodie bags, pencils, and books), some suggested alternatives that unfortunately wouldn’t truly be nut-free (Whole Foods or Earth Fare bakery, Edible Arrangements, etc.), some suggested things that just aren’t realistic (like trying to make the cupcakes myself in the certified nut-free commercial cafeteria at the school), some of course suggested that I just “suck it up” and buy the highly processed stuff (unfortunately a child’s own birthday is not the one and only day throughout the year they eat junk food…it’s never really “just one day”), and some also suggested things that are honestly a little unethical (like put my own homemade cupcakes in a grocery store cupcake box). As I mentioned above several kids in her class do in fact have a nut allergy and my house is far from being completely nut-free, so for many reasons faking out the school with my own homemade cupcakes is really not an option. And as I also already mentioned my daughter was dead-set on cupcakes so the fruit and other non-food alternatives unfortunately weren’t going to do the trick. I am normally a big fan of non-food rewards and parties at the school.

Taking a Stand

My daughter is also a child though, and it’s my responsibility to raise her and teach her what I think are important lessons along the way. Funny enough one reader (on Spoonfed’s Facebook page) said she didn’t understand why people were saying for me not to inflict my own beliefs on my kids. She said “Really? Isn’t that EXACTLY what we as parents are supposed to do? Especially in this case where her ‘beliefs’ are in place to make her kids healthy.” Yes, I want to be flexible and fun and make special memories for my children (which by the way DO NOT have to involve highly processed food), but I couldn’t believe how many readers went out of their way to email me and come write on my FB wall that I should not give in because it’s important to teach my children to stand up for what they believe in. Freaking amen to that. I explained to my daughter the constraints and then I truthfully asked her if she wanted to feed her friends cupcakes that contained chemicals. She of course said “no” (that’s my girl). You see, real food is no new topic around here plus – for the most part – kids want to do the right thing. And just for the record, if more wholesome, homemade cupcakes were an option we would be all over it. This dilemma is not about never having treats – I don’t think that’s any way to live. This is about not knowingly buying and serving chemically-filled, artificially made crap to our children.

So I gave my soon to be 8-year-old a long list of ideas (thanks to the reader comments) and asked her what – if any – would be an alternative to cupcakes that she would be excited about. After some deliberation she decided on ice cream…yay! I think it is MUCH easier to find somewhat wholesome store-bought ice cream that is also nut free. Plus I learned it is okay to bring in a big container to scoop out right there at the lunch table and also share some nut-free toppings to make a sort of “ice cream bar” for the kids. We eat ice cream at home occasionally and although we make it ourselves (yum) I think store bought, all-natural, organic ice cream is a totally acceptable treat to share at a time like this! She got so excited about the idea of offering an ice cream bar that she seriously didn’t say another word about the cupcakes. As I said she is a child after all, and I am honestly just relieved that we figured out a way for everyone to be happy…me included. :)

The Details

birthday (organic) ice cream bar by 100 Days of Real Food

In addition to the nut allergies my daughter’s class also has three children with dairy allergies! So this is what we ended up bringing to school for her birthday celebration today:

  • Nut-free organic store-brand vanilla ice cream
  • Nut-free AND dairy-free organic coconut milk ice cream (for the 3 kids who can’t have dairy)
  • Enjoy Life chocolate chips that are both certified nut-free and dairy-free
  • Organic Florida strawberries

Some schools in our district have gone “treat-free” all together when it comes to celebrating birthdays, and I am only hoping that will happen in our school at some point. Trying to accommodate everyone’s needs today (including my own) was no small feat!

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but 100 Days of Real Food will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us spread our message!

345 thoughts on “The Birthday Cupcake Moral Dilemma (and the solution!)”

  1. Hi. I am trying to have my “empty nest” eat healthier… step by step…. So, your website/blog intrigued me! I do have a question though. In this picture, it looks as though the strawberries are still in the original container. I am a stickler for washing all produce with all-natural Veggie Wash from whole foods… then rinsing well.. Do you wash strawberries and then the container as well? just wondering… thank you!!

  2. I really love your approach to keeping your kids healthy. It is balanced and thoughtful. And making your children part of the decision-making process is so important and really pays off in the long run. We don’t follow 100% of the 100 Days of Real Food guidelines but we have definitely been inspired by you to eat less processed food and it has really made a difference in our family’s health. Thank you for the work that you do!

  3. As a kindergarten teacher, I once suggested parents consider non-sweet foods for birthdays if they wanted to, and gave a few ideas. When I got home, my phone was ringing from an irate mother who thought that just because I “didn’t let MY kids eat sweets, I shouldn’t tell others what they should do!” I told her those were just suggestions and I assured her that my family loved cookies, etc, but I didn’t want parents to think they had to send cupcakes, etc. She calmed down, and I must say, we had some creative parents that year who sent a variety of treats.

  4. I love the ice cream bar idea! I also agree with everything you said here in this post. I cannot imagine how stressful these situations must be. I must be honest though… Didn’t you just bring in Krispy creme doughnuts for your older child’s birthday. I am not judging you for letting your daughter have a doughnut once a year, but the thing is if every parent had that attitude if would be a lot more often then once a year. Just want to understand the reasoning as to why the older daughter gets Krispy creme, but the younger can’t bring cupcakes?

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Crystal. This post is 4 years old and sometimes Lisa does make exceptions to her rules. :)

  5. When did having parties at school start? We never had parties at school in the 50’s and I don’t see why they need to take time out of teaching to have ones now. Oh yeah, I forgot they don’t teach anything now anyway so what does it matter. I suggest everyone get active in the PTA and push for NO PARTIES. This solves the problem of food and saves you money, especially if you want to have a birthday party for your child outside of school and have to INVITE THE WHOLE class, if you do. Haven’t they heard of the rule on one guest per year of age?? I can’t imagine trying to watch 15 or 20 children you don’t know, especially if the parents just drop them off and don’t stay to watch them.

  6. I am a mother to a child with a tree nut allergy and I’m not sure if you are aware but most of the store bought ice creams are made on the same lines as other ice creams that contain nuts and for that reason I don’t feel comfortable with my child eating that. Yes they clean the lines in between but there is still a risk for cross contamination.

  7. I am so glad I read this! I usually end up taking ice cream as well. Good old fashioned vanilla. No fruit flavors…some kids are allergic to straw berries. It’s been 2 years since I had to deal with this, so I couldn’t think of anything.

  8. I am so glad I read this! I usually end up taking ice cream as well. Good old fashioned vanilla. No fruit flavors…some kids are allergic to straw berries.

  9. I hate the almost weekly birthday classroom celebrations. I would like to get to be the one who enjoys the occasional treat with my daughter – not have them given at school so often that I don’t feel great about giving more at home. My younger daughter isn’t in school yet – but her dairy, egg, soy & nut allergy pretty much garuntee that she will be left out of these celebrations every time. How is that fair to a 5 year old? I wish we would move away from the school birthday treats altogether… Sigh…

  10. My head feels like it is going to explode just from reading everything you had to go through to share a special day at school. Did any of the nut allergy people have a problem with the fact you brought coconut milk ice-cream? Coconut can trigger some nut allergies (though I don’t know if that includes its milk). I also find it ironic that the only thing allowed is the stuff that is the absolute worst for our bodies. How many of these kids would find drastic improvement in their allergy issues if they got off the processed crap and healed their gut?

    1. “I also find it ironic that the only thing allowed is the stuff that is the absolute worst for our bodies. How many of these kids would find drastic improvement in their allergy issues if they got off the processed crap and healed their gut?”

      Annie: I agree, the stuff that is allowed is not necessary always good for our bodies, though you must also understand that for the parent of a nut allergic child, I would rather something unhealthy, once in a while, than something that could KILL my child.

      Further, my breastfed child was diagnosed with a nut allergy at 6 month of age. Not sure how processed food could have caused?

      A bit more sympathy for children who could literately DIE from treats contaminated with nuts would be appreciated.

  11. This dilemma was a huge reason why we chose to send our girls to the Waldorf school in our area, Prairie Hill Waldorf School. Not only do they allow us to bring in homemade treats, they encourage us to practice whole foods eating with our families. For birthdays, in Kindergarten, we provide organic heavy cream and our child’s favorite fruit and the class whips up the cream and serves it with the prepared fruit. In the preschool the teacher makes a honey yogurt cake and tops it with the fruit you provide. They always take into account nut, gluten and other allergies as well. I really was happy to find such an amazing school that aligns with our family values.

  12. I love this post! Thank you! My son’s 9th birthday is in a few weeks and I hope to do something similar.

  13. I love that you guys came up with a solution that made both of you happy! Birthdays are supposed to be fun, and I think that while food is supposed to be nourishing, it is also supposed to be enjoyed. Its great that y’all were able to find a fun way to enjoy a little something sweet for her special day with her classmates. And bravo for not taking the easy way out!

  14. Kinga Christianson

    My daughter just started preschool. She is only 3.5yo. This is her second week at school and today when I picked her up I found her eating birthday cupcake for lunch. I was not notified that somebody was going to bring them to school today and feed them to my child. Yes, I want her to be included in everything that her group is doing, I want her to have fun, but why, why, why does it have to mean feeding her bright food coloring and other crapy ingredients? I emailed the school and asked about their birthday sweets policy. What else can I do? Honestly, I wish they banned bringing junk food to celebrate birthdays for good. I dont want to be “that parent”, but I also dont want other parents to make decisions about what my child eats for lunch.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hello Kinga. I know how frustrating it can be, believe me. Some readers have said that their schools have switched to a once a month birthday celebration. This seems a good suggestion to share along with, perhaps, a list of healthier options. All that sugar hitting a preschooler’s blood stream cannot make a preschool teacher’s job any easier. :/ It may take some time but I bet you can find some allies among other parents, too. Best of luck. ~Amy

  15. It’s so sweet that you brought in a special coconut ice cream for the children who cannot have dairy. My daughter is allergic to nuts, and I really wish we had the same rules for parties at school. Everything has to be store bought but there’s no rule about a certified nut-free bakery. I keep Enjoy Life brand cookies in her treat box at school for when other kids a a birthday.

  16. This brought tears to my eyes. I am so proud of your little girl. Could you imaging how much stress you could have saved by just talking with her in the begining? We get so worried about getting them what they want because they ask for what they have seen. If we just take the time to talk to them they make the right choice afterall without hesitation. They are amazing little beings! You have a lot to be proud of!

  17. Wow! What a great idea!! The kids probably thought it was better than cupcakes! As a parent with a child with dairy, egg, and peanut allergy – thank you from the bottom of my heart for being sensitive to those kids!

  18. I remembered reading your article earlier in the year regarding your “Birthday treat dilemma.” My son’s birthday was yesterday and I brought in a chocolate fountain with strawberries, bananas, natural marshmallows and Trader Joe’s whole wheat pretzels. The children absolutely loved it. My son is also in kindergarten. Thanks for your inspiration!

  19. Judith Martinez

    and with that, your child now has the coolest parents in the class, lol! ;)

  20. Hi there, I just found your site and really like it -I will be back.
    But at the risk of disappearing down a sideways rabbit hole – is your 8 year old daughter really wearing lipstick?
    Dx

      1. Thanks – glad to hear it (for anyone else – regardless of the child sexualisation issues, just do a web search on lipstick and lead)

  21. One year we made chocolate dipped frozen bananas. The kids loved them. And I made a few of something else for those allergic to chocolate or bananas.

  22. My son’s school is treat free and he wanted to make volcanoes. I made 5 batches of air-dry clay and the kids worked together to make volcanoes. We filled them with baking soda, vinegar, and food coloring. The kids loved it. I even passes out a little plastic dinosaur for each kid to play with.

  23. Have you tried Java’s in Waxhaw? They are peanut free (although not tree nut free) and they have wonderful baked goods.

  24. My friend’s daughter was just recently diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes (Type 1). Just a little history, food is not an area around which we tend to connect. When her daughter was diagnosed I tried to help out by doing some research and sharing information. I was really, really depressed by some of the diabetes diet information out there. Is it true that she has to rely on products that I would never in a million years dream of feeding to my family? The low carb yogurt is so highly processed with a list of very yucky ingredients and that is just for starters. It seems that real food and diabetes friendly food are at odds in the world. Do you have any thoughts/resources/suggestions?

    1. Claudia,
      My sister was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a child (and now works as a nurse), so I have spent my life around this sort of “diet” if you could even call it that. Type 1 diabetics can have the same things that anyone else can have–they just have to eat sweets in moderation, and time them well. Type 1 diabetics are insulin dependent–it’s not about eating certain foods or not eating certain foods, it’s just about learning to balance them with the right dosage of insulin at the right time. Carbs go through the body faster than fat, so a diabetic eating a pasta dish would need more insulin at the time of the meal and less later on than a diabetic eating a steak, who will need less over the next few hours. Programmable insulin pumps have made this easier. If they want a sugary snack on occasion they could take some extra insulin to make up for it. It’s always easiest to balance the levels if a healthy diet is maintained (just as we all should!!) but special products are not necessary. Regular food at regular meals should be just fine!

      (disclaimer: I’m not a doctor and in no way want to substitute for medical advice)

    2. Almost all the “diabetes diet” info out there is for type 2 diabetics so you should just ignore it. Type 1s (juvenile) can eat basically eat anything they want as long as they dose for it appropriately with insulin per their doctor’s instructions.

  25. Coconut is a member of the palm family, which is not related to nuts or peanuts. Coconuts are large seeds adapted for water-born dispersal and remain viable after having floated in the sea for six months or more. If your child is allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, there is no reason for him to avoid coconut.

    It’s really a seed not a nut, and most allergists don’t tell you to avoid it with tree nut allergy. The few reactions to coconut are allergy just to it, unrelated to tree nut allergy. But the FDA confused everyone a couple of years back by adding coconut to the list of tree nut allergens…if you’re tree nut allergic, ask your doctor if coconut flour is ok for you. Most with tree nut allergy do have the green light to eat coconut.”

    The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) also weighed in “Discuss this with your doctor. Coconut, the seed of a drupaceous fruit, has typically not been restricted in the diets of people with tree nut allergy. However, in October of 2006, the Food and Drug Association (FDA) began identifying coconut as a tree nut. The available medical literature contains documentation of a small number of allergic reactions to coconut; most occurred in people who were not allergic to other tree nuts. Ask your doctor if you need to avoid coconut.”

  26. I teach kindergarten and at our school we don’t have food for birthdays. Children may donate a book to the class. We put their photo in the book with the date. That way we celebrate that child for years to come. When my son wanted to bring a treat for his birthday, I changed the labels on water bottles to say “Name is turning 6, Wat-er you doing?” Kind of corny, but no one else had done it!

  27. I love your meet-in-the-middle solution to the cupcake dilemma! I am really bummed at the number of times the healthy lunches I’ve spent hours planning, shopping for and preparing come home from pre-school barely touched b/c there was a giant birthday cupcake, a pajama day donut, a holiday party snack, or it’s Tuesday Reading Group so the teacher brought a giant box of Goldfish crackers to pass around. I’m becoming aware that this is really a hot-button issue for a lot of parents. (Who would have thought not wanting MY kids inundated with sugar and chemicals would be so offensive to so many people???) Just wondering if anyone has suggestions for how to broach the subject of reducing/eliminating the celebratory snacks-or at least substitute healthier options for some of them-in a diplomatic manner. I don’t want to offend anyone or seem judge-y and I’m not sure how to start that conversation with other parents and the teachers.

  28. wow, I must be getting old. I can’t believe there are so many “celebrations” in school time and the cost pressures of bring treats to an entire class. It might be good to go back to simpler times when a simple singing of “Happy Birthday” and a treat basket from which a child would choose from ( that included non food options) would be the celebration. People wonder why its harder to live on one paycheck or save for future – we didn’t spend money on these kinds of things and our kids were very happy!

    1. How old are you? I’m 35 and all though elementary school I was THE ONLY kid who didn’t bring in cupcakes for the class on my birthday. My mom just couldn’t be bothered to spend the time nor could we really afford the expense.

  29. America has an extremely distorted sense of moderation. Especially when it comes to “legal” substances. Sugar and caffine are highly addictive substances with horrible side effects. It is more and more depressing how quickly Americans will cause themselves agony of medical issues that could be solved if not for the addiction to convience.

  30. I am so proud of you! *For deciding that YOU are the one responsible for shaping your daughter’s values and being OK with that charge! *For choosing to stand for something even though it was inconvenient! *For being gracious enough to so seriously consider the feelings of your daughter… I likely would’ve replied with a “just b/c everyone else it doing it this way does’t mean that we have to do it this way” …but you took it a step beyond, and I’m sure your daughter will see it as a learning moment! Thanks for being a brave Mom!

  31. WOW! excellent post, thank you! Your statement, “This dilemma is not about never having treats – I don’t think that’s any way to live. This is about not knowingly buying and serving chemically-filled, artificially made crap to our children” was articulated so beautifully, the same could be said for the Kraft Mac & Cheese debate: “This is not about never your beloved mac & cheese – I don’t think that’s any way to live. This is about not knowingly buying and serving chemically-filled, artificially made crap to our children.”

    THANK YOU for all you do!

  32. Jennifer Pierce

    What is wrong with making homemade cupcakes with nothing “artificial” in them? No nuts either. Just “made from scratch” cupcakes. A birthday is not that often and it would be considered a “treat.” I had 3 sons and did this. My experience was that most of the kids just nibbled at the food anyway and were more interested in playing. When things, including food is prohibited or made to sound as if will kill you, that causes children and adults to obsess about it, focus on it, and get it anyway when no one is looking, and then feel guilty about it. You can control kids somewhat when they are young, but watch out when they are teens or older. They will do all the things you prohibited when they were young! If they’ve been allowed some freedom to choose, they don’t “break out” later.

    1. Because if you used that bowl or spoon or pan to make something that had peanut or tree nut in it, even after you wash it, it has trace amounts of oil from those nuts. That trace amount can easily trigger a deadly anaphylactic reaction. This food could kill my 10 year old son. I’m not making it sound like it. It’s our reality. I agree that junk, proceeded food is not a better option, that’s why I worked so hard with other allergy parents to get birthday food out of the classroom. It took a first grade child in our county dying at school to make it happen.

  33. My youngest son has multiple food allergies. He is allergic to peanuts (assuming all tree nuts), milk, and eggs. I use coconut milk and coconut oil in my baking all the time. To answer the question of a couple of people earlier, coconuts are fruits not tree nuts. I like the ice cream bar idea. We also have this dilemma for our son, as his birthday day is coming up in school. The kids LOVE fruit, so that’s probably the way we’ll go.

  34. Heres another thought to add to the mix. Why are we teaching our children that celebrations should equal food? No matter what type of food diet you are facing Food should not be the reward!

    A celebration of a game of kickball or softball or jumprope is a much better way to go!!

    Just my 2 cents!

  35. As a teacher I dislike any of the food choices. I can’t imagine carving out the time to serve up dishes of ice cream to each child! We are also not allowed to serve any of the treats at lunchtime anymore because of other tables of students who may be allergic to a host of ingredients besides nuts. An ice cream bar would take up their entire lunchtime anyway. That sounds great for a birthday party at home! At the beginning of the year I always encourage parents who feel the need to bring something to the classroom to consider a goodie bag instead. (I really try to discourage cupcakes because of the nasty mess they leave!) I’ve had allergic students in the past whose parents left me treats they can eat for celebration days (nothing particularly healthy but Oreos, rice crispy treats, etc). We announce birthday names on the announcements, they get a birthday pin and pencil. I think that should be enough, the birthday boy/girl gets something special and the party can be at home!

  36. At the school where I teach, we have gotten rid of all food treats for birthdays. We encourage parents to come in and read to the class, make a craft, or any other creative idea. It has worked out well and eliminated any issues of allergies, food issues, etc…

  37. Great post, but I was wondering the same thing about the coconut ice cream. Isn’t coconut considered a tree nut?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Lucy. I just responded to this same question above. Seem there is conflicting information about it though the FDA classifies it as such. ~Amy

  38. I am completely with you on this. I have never brought cupcakes in for my daughters birthday at school. Usually I go with some form of ice cream. I actually had one of her teachers thank me for not bringing in cupcakes, since that is what “everyone” does. I commend you for bringing your daughter into the conversation and giving her the tools to make a better choice for the class treat.

  39. Love the ice cream idea, but I have to ask, how you were allowed the coconut milk ice cream? My son’s classroom is peanut and tree nut free due to allergies and I learned the hard-way by sending coconut milk in his lunch box that coconuts are considered tree nuts. We skipped all the junk food and gave each classmate friend 8″ sharks with handmade happy birthday tags on them…the kids and the parents thanked us.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Lisa. Apparently there is conflicting information out there about whether coconuts are considered a tree nut. For example: http://blog.onespotallergy.com/2011/03/is-coconut-safe-for-people-with-tree-nut-allergies/ and http://foodallergies.about.com/od/nutallergies/f/coconutallergy.htm. I was curious about it, too. We have a neighbor with a tree nut allergy. I called his mom to make sure he could eat something I’d cooked in coconut oil and she shared that coconuts were fine for him. It is a tough to field to navigate. ~Amy

  40. When my daughter was in elementary school, she had both nut and dairy allergies. I used to bring in cut up fresh fruit salad for birthday parties, which was a huge hit with both kids and teachers (they are just as sick of feeding the kids sugary junk, since that jacks up the sugar-sensitive kids). I spent several years as the school fundraising coordinator, and I wasn’t fond of the numerous food fundraisers I had inherited, since they always had nuts/dairy, plus terrible profit margins. It took me a few years, but eventually, we started a Fall Fitness Fundraiser, where kids got sponsors (at close to 100% profit margin) and with the P.E. teacher’s help, they spent one gym class participating in some fun fitness activities (including one year when a Jazzercise mom volunteered to lead the fitness activities). In each grade, the class with the most $ sponsorship was treated to a fruit salad party. You would not believe how excited these kids were to win that fruit salad party! We found out if there were any fruit allergies in each class (strawberries, mangoes, mangoes, and pineapple seem to be the biggest fruit allergy problems) and worked from there. I don’t suggest fruit kabobs … usually at least one sword fight would break out after the fruit was eaten ;)

  41. Lisa, my dilemma has another layer: the teacher refuses to give my child the cupcake/donut because he is allergic to peanuts EVEN THOUGH I have told her verbally and in writing that he is not so allergic he can’t have it. He feels left out and his feelings are always hurt. There is never an alternative treat for him because no one ever tells the parents in advance that junk treats are being handed out so we can have an alternative: ie. I can have donuts from your (awesome) recipe ready when the Krispy Kreeme show up. Parents need to be educated at open house before school starts next year.

    1. I had a child with a food allergy, and we always gave the teacher the prepackaged crispy bars that she could have in the event of a class birthday party. The best class birthday party my daughter ever had was a new teacher who didn’t want junk in the class. She said my daughter could donate a book to the class library, and they would have a special circle time for her, and read the book. I spent less money buying one book, and by the end of the school year the teacher had a bookshelf of favorite kid books. Very much a win-win situation.

      1. If a teacher told me to buy her a new book for MY child’s birthday just so she could read it to the class, I would complain to principal. If my child wanted a book that was in the price range I would buy the book and if teacher wanted to read it in class fine but the book WOULD come back to my house and be our book. Sounds to me like teacher is trying to get a free libary of books. I would think teachers would want children to have own books at their homes.

      2. She said “COULD” not “HAD TO”. It sounds to me like the teacher was saying “if you are going to spend money on cupcakes, please buy a book instead” as a non-food treat that would benefit the whole class. But go ahead and get irate and offended if that’s what you need to do to feel good about yourself. Bravo on teaching your kid selfishness, too.

      3. I have always liked the idea of giving a book to the classroom so that the classroom library can increase and all the kids benefit. I am sure that teacher has bought lots of books for her students from her own money. I would lot think to give a book ( apresent) and then take it back.

      4. Oh my lands, Kris, what got your knickers in such a twist? Tory, your response was perfect. I’d like to add that I think each child would feel a certain ownership of the books in the classroom and probably take better care of them. I also know my boys would be absolutely tickled pink when “their” book was again selected for a read-aloud time.

        I’m totally going to steal this idea and suggest it to my kids’ teachers (they’re only in preschool now).

      5. Our last school did the book-for-the-class-library birthday thing too. It was awesome. The idea was that your child would choose a book they liked for the class library–there as no list or price range or anything. Just whatever the birthday child liked. The, mom, or dad, or grandma, or even an older sibling from another class would come read the book or a chapter or other selection from the book. And, of course, the birthday child would write something inside the cover.

        The food thing stresses me out on many levels. Both of my kids have had unusual food allergies that are somewhat outgrown (kid 1–rice and to this day won’t eat it, kid 2–potato and tomato–can have potatoes but won’t touch a raw tomato). My older son was poisoned at a birthday party by a gluten-free cake. Parents were not told it was gluten-free, mom announced after cake that since gluten-free is so much healthier, they had decided to go gluten-free and wasn’t it delicious?! My kid had a stomach ache and cramps for 48 hours, she never even apologized. BUT, it was the first time rice did not result in projectile vomiting, yippee.

  42. As a retired teacher, I understand why homemade treats are not allowed. I think there are a lot of alternatives that are healthy, like fruit! I’ve had parents bring in a fruit tray for a birthday, or ice cream, or popcorn… I also want to share that our district now provides a healthy snack during the day. It is a fresh fruit or raw vegetable every day. This gives many children an opportunity to try something they haven’t had before and often they discover they like it! And no, the fruits and veggies aren’t packaged, they are the real deal. I can’t vouch for organic, but they are washed and in individual cups and the kids look forward to this daily!

  43. How timely, as I’ve been angsting over the same thing. In the past month, my son has had pizza and chemical-laden treats 10 (!!!!!) times, between school birthdays and out of school birthday parties. One kid even brought in horrible blue cotton candy – it took me three days to get it all out of my son’s teeth. I love the idea of ice cream – we could do little single serving cups and fruit. Actually, I’d probably do frozen sorbet or something fruit-based. Problem solved!

  44. So glad my daughter was born in August. I will never have to face this dilemma. But you handled it beautifully. I think it is IMPERATIVE to teach the kids now, before bad habits are formed. Good for you for standing your ground.

  45. that would be fun but my daughters classroom has a nut allergy, gluten, dairy, strawberry and chocolate. Yep all of that within 70 1st graders in 3 classrooms.

    Plan to do this at home for sure!

  46. Do you have a recipe for cupcakes? My daughter’s birthday party is Saturday, and she is asking for cupcakes.

  47. Brandi Thompson

    I absolutely love this blog!! I had this happen to me last year and I wasn’t as crunchy as I am now. I actually had the cupcake organizer ask me to bring some to school this week and I just ignored the text. :)

    My son’s birthday is next month and I will be utilizing this with him because I know the inevitable “treat” question will come up! Also I am using the homemade pedialyte today for my son who has been up all night vomiting!

  48. I’m new to this site and using it for ideas to further reduce/eliminate processed and unhealthy foods. School is an issue though. Birthday parties have been done away with but then they still have a DAILY snack shared by all of the kids… Parents bring in enough once per month for the class. I really, really hate this and it makes allowing even the occasional splurge hard to swallow!! I need to look into options for eliminating this as an option for my little guys.

  49. Oh how I hope our school stops the practice of birthday treats! I learned how little consideration people give to feeding their children once my children started school. You are so right, it is not just one day. It’s every students birthday plus every class party. It really adds up. Then you have the well-meaning people that send ‘goodie bags’ home for Christmas, Halloween, Easter, etc…

  50. I’m a teacher and have always struggled with this as well – I hate filling the kids up with junk for birthdays and what other students bring in during parties so….I was beyond THRILLED when just today our school sent home a note informing parents that edible treats are NO LONGER ALLOWED for birthdays or holiday celebrations (due to food allergies prevalent in our building). Yay!

  51. Any ideas for a snack/lunch for my preschooler’s valentine party? Has to be store bought (and in the packaging – we can’t handle it), and nut free (but not necessarily from nut free factory). Unfortunately, I live about 45 minutes from a whole foods, so I don’t have the greatest supermarket selections. Appreciate any thoughts!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Cindy. Sorry I am too late on this…what did you wind up doing? We have been doing a sliced banana lengthwise, topped with sliced strawberries, a little dollop of homemade whip cream on each strawberry and then some chocolate shavings (I’ve been using those Endangered Species chocolates available at Whole Foods). My kids devour them and call them “banana splits”! Jill

  52. I love your idea. I’m a little late on the uptake here, but you had a great idea. I wonder if I would be able to bring in treats like this at my son’s school! Thanks for taking a stand, though.

  53. I cannot tell you how excited I was to see this post. My son’s birthday is in May and he has already been talking about bringing cupcakes to share with his friends and I have been cringing trying to figure out what to do. We have the same issue with it having to be store bought and nut free (though not from a nut-free bakery). I am going to suggest this to him and I know he is going to be over the moon. I think his class at daycare has at least 1 birthday a week and I always want to grab the cupcakes and run when I see them!

  54. I am having issues with how to deal with the weekly snacks at church, the weekly ball game snacks, friends birthday parties, etc.??? When the family is on the 100 day challenge, how do you handle these moments? I am not sure if me making a pizza and taking it into their Bball pizza night will make them feel good about our choices?? We have 6 busy children and I am worried that these moments may be tripping us up on our success. Advice? Thanks!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Leah. I know that during the 100 Day challenge, Lisa explained to everyone what they were doing and did in fact bring her own food when necessary. So, you’ll have to decide if you want to do that. Best of luck. Jill

  55. I am a complete believer in a ” no food celebration” policy. There are 100’s of ways to celebrate without ANY food. Kids love to make tee shirts and have all the kids sign it. I hear you on the chemical and I feel all children could have dietary restrictions. Makes it just easier removing food from the equation. Period

  56. I am finding it so hard to keep my kids meals in check! I make my own bread, cut out everything processed, pack all of their lunches, and make sure I have plenty of fruit and veggies to snack on. BUT…every time I turn around there is another birthday party, or dinner out in celebration of just about everything. So far this week alone they have had Chili’s and Mcdonalds (NOT while they have been with me!) and just got told we are celebrating my nephews birthday at a local greek/italian restaurant on Tuesday. So my kids will be ordering pizza..fried ravioli..garlic bread fried mozzarella sticks….AAAHHH! I am not sure what to do without looking like I am punishing them on a special occasion! Help!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Dee. It is definitely a challenge. I just always strive to make their diets as good as possible when I am in control and that way the “splurges” seem more manageable. Good luck. Jill

  57. We did ice cream for my daughter’s classroom. We did individual cups- pre-scooped– vanilla, organic (no special diets in that room)- and we had toppings for it. The kids loved it and remember it– a favorite.

  58. Great idea for her birthday treat at school. We are lucky that my kids’ school has a no-food rule for birthdays. I love it and think it’s a great idea. Now I don’t need to worry about my sons eating horrible store bought cupcakes at school at least twice a month. School is meant for learning not eating junk food. And how are they at school teaching kids about healthy eating if they allow parents to always give out cupcakes for birthdays. I totally agree that birthdays are meant to be celebrated at home, too. (But I do wish that parents stopped giving out goodie bags at school. It’s just another thing to throw in the trash or another pencil to collect.)

  59. Siddhi Industries are Manufacturers of Fresh Fruits, Spices Exporters, Suppliers of Fresh Vegetables, Animal Feed, Cereals and Grains, Multani Mitti, Snacks Suppliers, Dairy Products, Rice, Pickles and Papad in India.

  60. Since everyone is at unison in not giving a damn about our children’s health, I would have to say, buy the cupcakes for the kids from the cafeteria and bake at home the one for your daughter. That way everyone will be pleased. I guess. People are narrow minded and in this case its like trying to teach an old dog new tricks.

      1. Hi Jill. I guess I’m just a little offended at the comment that it was so unrealistic! The post said “It has to be from a commercial kitchen” not store bought. It also said “The school’s ‘approved’ cupcakes from their cafeteria are highly processed and full of chemicals and artificial ingredients.” This comment made me believe that you might be able to use a commercial nut-free kitchen at the school. I didn’t see it how it was not realistic as “some suggested things that just aren’t realistic (like trying to make the cupcakes myself in the certified nut-free commercial cafeteria at the school.” I love this website and use the recipes almost everyday. When someone is honestly just trying to help and going off the information given i don’t see it as being unrealistic!!! Just saying!!!!

      2. Katie – Just to clarify I actually said it was unrealistic because of time. I would not have time to coordinate something of that nature with only a few days notice. I hope that makes sense.

      3. They would never let someone without the proper food handling permits into that kitchen. Also a certified nut free kitchen orders all their ingredients. Lisa would not have been allowed to bring in her own ingredients even if they were labeled as nut free. So she would have had to use the kitchen’s ingredients which would have to be ordered specifically for her need, as most kitchens run a tight ship on ingredients and only usually keep a what they need on hand.

      4. Oh I agree! Our school would never let a parent come in with their own ingredients and use their kitchen and oven!

  61. Fantastic and FUN solution!! My kindergarten daughter loves the vanilla organic ice cream from Publix. She would be thrilled to share ice cream at lunchtime with her friends next month for her birthday. Thank you for saving me from sending mediocre “healthy” baked goods to share in her class. So excited…and she will be too :)

  62. Wonderful solution: put a list together of options and allow your daughter to choose from the options. Great parenting, while staying true to your beliefs and, honestly, offering a more healthful option to all children involved. If I were the parent of a child in your daughter’s class, I would appreciate your thoughtfulness too. And I hardly think putting together an ice cream bar in any way denied your daughter an experience: in fact, I bet it made her pretty popular (who doesn’t love ice cream!) Another reason to love this blog.

  63. My child’s nut free school wont allow coconut. I would have never thought of it but they don’t. Surprised to see yours does. Good compromise.

Comments are closed.