As a parent of two young ones, we've got kids' parties, potlucks, holidays and celebrations scheduled almost every weekend (and sometimes more than once a weekend). Healthy party-food ideas for kids are a welcome change from all the sugary options that seem to preside at every party. What used to be considered a special-occasion treat—like cake, candy and lemonade—is now the norm, and it feels like we're always one piñata smash away from a sticky meltdown.
Related: 5 Tasty Desserts Without Added Sugar
OK, so the cakes and candies are a given at a birthday party. But there are ways to curb the sugar rush and squeeze in some healthy nibbles along the way. If you're hosting a party, here are some fun, healthy party-food ideas for kids to keep little bellies happy. If you're going to be a guest at a party, offer to bring a healthy dish to share.
1. Choose Drinks with No Added Sugar
Pictured: Kid-Friendly Sangria Punch
Party drinks can be full of added sugar. A better option? We love unsweetened seltzer water. Add it to your punch to fizz it up without added sugar. Or serve it straight up. There are lots of fun flavors available these days. Choose naturally sweet juice pouches without added sugar—look for ones that contain 100% juice.
2. Cute as a Cucumber
Pictured: Mini Cucumber Caterpillars
You've seen hasselback potatoes, but have you seen these wiggly veggie bugs? Cutting mini cucumbers every 1/2 inch or so using the hasselback technique turns them into squirmy caterpillars—and gives you extra places to sneak in more veggies.
3. Finger Foods for the Win
Pictured: Ranch Dip & Crunchy Vegetables
I know my kids won't sit down and eat a whole plate of food in one sitting when there are so many distractions. I'll be happy if my son eats a couple of carrot sticks. Finger foods are great, because kids can grab and nibble when they feel like it. My favorite party snack is cut-up fruits and veggies. And make sure to have some dips for dunking. Which leads me to...
4. It's All About the Dips
Pictured: Rainbow Hummus
Kids love to dunk and dip their food. Homemade hummus is super-easy and cheap to make—and it's also the reason I hoard cans of chickpeas at home. You can make a basic garlic hummus or, if you have adventurous eaters on your hands, make a festive display of rainbow dips by using different veggies to add vibrant color. Try using beets for pink, red peppers for orange or avocado for green-hued hummus.
5. Put It on a Stick
Pictured: Rainbow Fruit Kebabs
Fruit in a bowl is fruit salad. But fruit on a stick is a magical rainbow wand that can conjure up unicorns and dragons. For kids' kebabs, I like to snip off sharp ends with kitchen shears and cut up the grapes so I'm not serving up a choking hazard.
6. Sneak in Some Veggies
Pictured: EatingWell's Pepperoni Pizza
Did someone say pizza?? It's an easy go-to when you're serving a crowd. Give classic pepperoni pizza a healthful makeover with whole-wheat pizza dough and a flavorful tomato sauce that, thanks to the addition of pumpkin puree, provides extra beta carotene and fiber. No one will even know!
7. Make Healthy Swaps
Pictured: Watermelon Fruit Pizza
This refreshing fruit dessert pizza recipe swaps out a classic cookie crust for a healthier watermelon crust. Topped with yogurt sauce, your kids' favorite berries and mint, it can easily be doubled (or tripled) for a party.
8. Be Trendy (Without Tons of Sugar & Food Dyes)
Pictured: Unicorn Smoothie
The rainbow unicorn food trend is here to stay (for now). Kids might be screaming for the latest syrupy drink at Starbucks, but you can make a magical treat with way less added sugar at home by layering naturally colored smoothie flavors in a glass. Add a fruit skewer to take this fun rainbow recipe to the next level.
Related: Healthy Family Summer Survival Guide
Video: How to Make Rainbow Hummus 4 Ways