Practical ideas and healthy recipes are at the core of a new Heart Foundation resource, Healthy Celebrations, which aims to provide healthy alternatives for celebrating special occasions.

Healthy Celebrations is the latest in a suite of resources and programmes created by the Heart Foundation to promote heathy eating and physical activity.

“Celebrations, such as birthdays and cultural celebrations are particularly valued by early learning services as a way to bring children, their whānau and the wider community together,” said Heart Foundation Early Learning Programme Advisor, Brogan Harvey.

“But with so many special days to celebrate throughout the year, ‘treat’ foods can take over the focus. We wanted to offer fun, realistic and healthy alternatives.”

Research from the University of Auckland revealed almost half of the early learning services surveyed celebrated a special occasion monthly, with 7 percent of those celebrating every week.

Birthdays were the most common special occasion. Also popular, were national or cultural celebrations such as Easter, Diwali, Mothers’ Day and last days or farewells.

Unsurprisingly cupcakes or a cake were the most popular celebration food items, followed by biscuits, pies and sausage rolls. Only half the early learning services served fruit or vegetables at celebrations.

The new resource explores ten special occasions and suggests ways to recognise and celebrate these with the child as the focus instead of the food. It also shares recipes, creative ideas and inspiring stories from early learning services throughout New Zealand.

The Heart Foundation currently works with more than 1000 early learning services throughout New Zealand providing programmes such as the Healthy Heart Award and tools such as Fuelled4life.

The Healthy Heart Award offers guidance and structure to promote healthy eating and physical activity, while Fuelled4life is a free tool that assists in all areas of food provision.