Nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, low sugar, individually wrapped, quick to make, quick to eat.
Today’s parents are faced with many limitations when preparing a special birthday treat for their child to share with their schoolmates. That is, if you’re one of the lucky few who even still have the opportunity to do so.
Many schools have done away with food-focused birthday celebrations because of the disruptions and scheduling conflicts they cause, but also because of the increasing number of food-related disabilities among today’s youth, such as allergies, diabetes, Celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
In the past, parents who have children with special dietary needs brought in their own “safe” treats for their child to eat at each birthday celebration so they feel included. However, the child still feels left out eating something different than the other kids. Here are some tried and true school birthday treats that are safe for all kids but so delicious and fun, students won’t even realize they are gluten-free, nut-free or dairy-free.
Please note that some of these recipes are nut-free, some gluten-free and some dairy-free, but there are various potential allergens. It is best to check with the other parents in your child’s classroom to determine their specific allergies or special dietary needs before making any school treats. (GF = Gluten-Free, NF = Nut-Free, DF = Dairy-Free)
Birthday Brownie Cupcakes (pictured above)
GF, NF, DF optional
Every birthday boy and girl deserves to have a cupcake on their special day. Here’s a gluten-free option that will please the whole class.
1 stick butter or dairy-free buttery spread
1 cup coconut sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup almond milk
2 sticks butter or dairy-free “butter” (room temperature)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with liners. In a medium mixing bowl, combine room temperature butter with coconut sugar and mix on high with electric mixer until whipped and fluffy. Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine gluten-free flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch and baking powder. Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour in milk and mix until combined. Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat for about one minute. Spoon into 12 cupcake liners, filling them 3/4 full. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. For frosting, combine butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in a small bowl. Beat until fluffy. Once cupcakes are completely cooled, spread frosting on top of brownie cupcakes.
S’mores Party Mix
GF, NF, DF optional
Gluten-free, nut-free and dairy-free, this party mix literally takes a few minutes to make and is simple to wrap individually. It offers the perfect combination of sweet and salty, and is a mix of healthy and yummy. Love Grown Chocolate Power O’s are made with beans instead of grains, adding a bit of protein, while the marshmallows and a touch of chocolate keep it party-worthy.
4 cups popcorn (like Skinny Pop)
4 cups gluten-free pretzels
4 cups Love Grown Chocolate Power O’s (or other gluten-free cereal)
2 cups mini marshmallows (like Dandies All Natural Marshmallows)
1 cup dark chocolate chips
or dairy-free candy melts (optional)
Combine popcorn, pretzels, Power O’s and marshmallows in a large bowl. Stir to mix. Transfer to a jelly pan covered with wax or parchment paper. Place chocolate chips or candy melts in a bowl and microwave for about one minute until melted and stir well. Transfer chocolate to a frosting piping bag or a plastic sandwich bag. Cut the tip of one corner of the bag. Squeeze chocolate through corner while moving the bag back and forth over top of the popcorn mix. Place jelly pan in refrigerator for 10 minutes to cool chocolate. When cooled, break apart and distribute evenly among individual cups or bags.
Crispy Rice Treats
GF, NF, DF optional
Rice Krispie treats are always a crowd pleaser. They’re about the fastest dessert you can make and with cookie cutters, sprinkles and some vision, you can customize them to fit any birthday party theme. Made with gluten-free crispy rice cereal instead of the more popular name brand, our taste testers couldn’t tell anything was different. The popsicle sticks made them feel like an extra special treat. They are simple to wrap separately, don’t require refrigeration and are easy to send along with your child on the bus.
3 Tbsp. butter or dairy-free “butter”
1 10 oz. bag of marshmallows (like Dandies All Natural Marshmallows)
5 cups gluten-free crispy rice cereal (like Nature’s Path Organic Crispy Rice)
1 cup candy melts or dairy-free melts
Sprinkles of your choice
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Add crispy rice cereal and stir until marshmallows are distributed evenly. Prepare a 13×9-inch casserole dish by spraying with nonstick spray. Transfer cereal mixture to casserole dish. Using a piece of wax or parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray, push the mixture evenly into the pan. Once cooled, cut into desired shapes. To make popsicle-like, we cut even strips about 3 inches wide across the pan, then cut the strips in half. Insert sticks into the bottom of crispy rice treats before completely cooled. Melt candy melts in the microwave for about one minute. Using a spoon or knife, dip treats into melted candy and spread over the top half of the “popsicle.” Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Cover with sprinkles.
Rainbow Fruit Kabobs
GF, NF, DF
Fruit! Nature’s dessert and the original gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free treat. Somewhere over the years, our brains have forgotten this as we’ve been retrained by our taste buds, by marketing from food companies and by new traditions. Somehow we began to believe that birthday treats need to be laden with sugar and artificial food coloring. But, all the colorful sweetness we crave in cakes with bright sprinkles is right here in the most nutritious and delicious (not to mention guilt-free) dessert there is.
Here we used raspberries, cantaloupe, pineapples, kiwi, blueberries and red seedless grapes to create a rainbow of goodness using wooden skewers from the local grocery store. We created a wand using berries and by slicing an apple to look like a star. All you need is a little imagination and soon you’ve got a fun, bright snack appropriate for any time of the school day — and one that won’t leave the students hyper and unable to focus.
Remember, there also are lots of fun ways to celebrate your child’s birthday at school that don’t require food. Try coming in to read a special birthday book or sending in a favor like a pencil, bookmark, stickers or a keychain. After all, an edible treat only lasts for a short time at school while a token to take home can be an ongoing reminder of your child’s friendship.