As my son was about to have his second birthday, I had a very difficult task ahead of me.
What to provide for daycare-friendly birthday treats?!
First, I’ll just say that I incorrectly assumed that in-class treats were not a “thing” at my son’s age. But several of his friends at daycare brought in cupcakes to share on their birthdays. I don’t begrudge anyone a tasty celebration… I just thought I had more time. So, being a glutton for punishment, and also unwilling to let my son go without a special treat of his own, my hunt for a good and daycare-friendly birthday treat began.
What is a good birthday treat, you might ask? For me, that means having some sort of health factor. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an anti-sweets stickler. I have an epic chocolate addiction (just ask my husband). However, while I make a few exceptions, my son is only two, and he’s already high energy, so the resulting sugar craze from a pile of frosting is not high on my wish list. That being said, I do appreciate special occasions and special treats. It’s all about balance.
When I began my search for daycare-friendly birthday treats, I also had to remember food allergies, because I wanted to be considerate and inclusive of his entire class. And I also wanted to explore some alternatives to cupcakes (I mean, nothing against cupcakes… they’re delicious, but I wanted to see if I could mix things up).
And so began my birthday treat search.
I scoured the internet for some semi-healthy, allergy-friendly birthday options. Some recipes met both criteria, and some met only one. I tried them all and decided to share my baking experiments here with you. While the recipes I attempted were mostly great, there could ultimately be only one special birthday treat. I encourage you to try them all though (over several special occasions, of course), because… mmmm… treats.
Happy Birthday planning!
Healthy Carrot Cake Energy Bites by Bites of Wellness: You probably don’t have all of these ingredients just lying around (dates, vanilla protein, coconut flour, sunflower seeds…). But this is a no-bake recipe that is not only nut-free and gluten-free, it is also vegan. If this seems a little too healthy for you, that’s because it really is genuinely good for you. I went out of my way to add some lollipop sticks and icing (instead of coconut butter) to give my carrot cake energy bites a little something extra. The sticks fell out after one bite, so they were an impractical addition. I still think this is a great recipe, but as a special birthday treat? You may want to keep reading.
Allergy-Friendly Snickerdoodle Rice Krispies by Allergy Awesomeness: let’s just say these aren’t exactly healthy because, let’s be honest, any Rice Krispy Treats worth their salt are jam-packed with sugary marshmallows. However, these do meet the allergy-friendly criteria being dairy, egg, soy, peanut and tree nut-free. Were they good? Yessss! You should probably try this if you are a fan of snickerdoodles. My takeaway? If you like Rice Krispy Treats, and you like snickerdoodles, and you don’t mind your little one having some marshmallows, these are a safe bet.
Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies by Safely Delish: Who can go wrong with chocolate chip cookies? I mean, they’re an American staple. I’m not going to lie to you and say that these are the best chocolate chip cookies ever. These are pretty good. As an added bonus, they’re wheat, gluten, dairy, egg, soy, and nut free. Quick tip, though: the recipe calls for a range of flour. I used King Arthur gluten-free flour and definitely needed more. My first batch came out like greasy, flat pancakes. With more flour, the 2nd batch was (mostly) as advertised, and husband-approved (which means, they were eaten in one day.)
Chunky Monkey Muffins by My Planted Plate: I felt enormously compelled to try this recipe because these muffins look awesome (IMO). My son LOVES monkeys and bananas, and the addition of cacao nibs pulled at my delicate heartstrings. There is no gluten or sugar in this recipe, the muffins are sweet only from the bananas and cacao nibs (though I actually added some mini chocolate chips for good measure, because things were sounding a bit too healthy to me). My husband was excited to try them, as he loves sweets, but he felt they were a little bland. My review is two thumbs up. My son loved them, and I found them to be a great, filling snack or treat if you’re looking to go the no-sugar route. For a touch of sweetness, try adding a drizzle of icing.
Gluten-Free Baked Blueberry Donuts by Gluten-Free Bread: If you’re like me, food-guilt emerges the second you glance at a donut. But these aren’t your typical donuts. These are egg-free and gluten-free, made with honey instead of sugar, and fresh blueberries. This recipe was for full-size donuts, but I made mini donuts, and they turned out great. Just note that the gluten-free flour gave the donuts a bit of a chewy texture rather than bready. Also, if honey isn’t your thing, skip right past this recipe, because the honey flavor was immediately apparent. Personally, I’m eager to try this recipe again without gluten-free flour.
Gluten-Free Vanilla Cupcakes by Gluten-Free Palate: Here it is, the customary birthday cupcake recipe, the final recipe on my list, and the one that actually went to daycare for my son’s birthday. What can I say? I was peer-pressured (mostly by my husband), and I’m a weak, weak momma. But come on, cupcakes and birthdays kind of go hand-in-hand! So, I figured, if I’m going to make the obvious choice, I should try to meet my original criteria. I found this gluten-free and dairy-free recipe, and honestly, these were pretty darn good. The texture wasn’t super soft like the store-bought variety, but they were moist and buttery, and they passed the toddler test. As you can see, I gave the cupcakes a personal touch, with hand-drawn chocolate stars and star sprinkles. Too much? Yeah… I maybe got carried away.
There you have it — the results of my semi-healthy birthday treat baking experiment. I learned some things about myself in the process. Mostly that I’m willing to gain 5 pounds, all in the name of stubbornness.