Let’s Reconsider How We Celebrate

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

What celebration is complete without food? From birthday parties to sporting event celebrations, food is always present, usually in the form of either snack food, fast food or dessert. While most will agree that the occasional treat won’t do much harm over the long term, what happens when an ”occasional” treat becomes more ”regular”? What happens when a ”treat” is the caloric equivalent of an entire meal?

Yeah, I know. Questioning treats is like raining, no, pouring buckets of sleet over Moncton’s Christmas parade. Unfortunately, it’s become necessary.

My fifth grade teacher had to change her family’s eating habits after realizing that her family had treats too often. My teacher’s son was only in second grade at the time, but he ate (in addition to other junk food) fries at fast food restaurants on a weekly basis. Needless to say, my teacher’s son’s doctor told my teacher that the family was enjoying treats much too often and that her son shouldn’t be enjoying a treat more than once a month. I don’t know if my teacher was followed the doctor’s advice, but I do know that the quantity of ”treats” we consume continues to be large.

A family friend’s kids recently came back from a friend’s birthday party, held at a certain large grocery store in Moncton, with each his very own heavily frosted birthday cake about eight inches in diameter. I’m not sure what the store was trying to do by giving preschoolers an excessive amount of birthday cake, but I do know that, at least at this family’s household, the cakes ”disappeared” (i.e. Had to be thrown away) before the kids had finished them.

With my sixteenth birthday exactly a week away, the topic of treats is my concern du jour. Being the health conscious eater that I am, I’m always trying to cut down on my consumption of treats and trying to make them less nutritionally catastrophic. Ironically, I have found that the hardest part of eating healthier at a party is not the act of eating healthy foods (who can resist fresh strawberries?), but dealing with people who believe junk food is the highlight of a party. Have you noticed how treat-centered social events have become? Take away the bags of chips and there’s not much of a party left.

Maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps if we focused on actually celebrating rather than on eating and preparing unhealthy treats, our parties would be more fun and we would be healthier. If a celebration is truly celebratory in nature, spending time with others and savouring the moment should be the focus and food, even healthy food, should just be there to keep hunger at bay. Let’s reconsider how we celebrate.

A couple of nutritious but very simple snack food ideas for parties:

-Fruit and vegetable trays, artistically arranged

– Air-popped popcorn (try using herbs and spices to season the popcorn instead of butter seasoning)

-100% fruit juice with frozen fruit replacing ice cubes

-Frozen fruit ”smoothie” popsicles


Originally published in the Times & Transcript on April 17th, 2010.


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