Family birthday meals can be healthy and fun.

The Best Family Dinner for a Birthday

by Laura Scott

A family birthday dinner is one of the few meals a lot of cooks plan in reverse. If you know everyone will end the meal with a slice of frosted cake and scoop of ice cream, it's a good idea to plan your dinner menu around healthy appetizers and a nutritious main course before everyone settles down to enjoy the main event.

1. Appetizers

Family birthday celebrations, especially those that include the extended family, require cooks to provide a variety of dishes that appeal to guests of all ages. Healthy appetizers satisfy a lot of different tastes. Most children and adults enjoy fresh fruit, and fruit kabobs are more fun than a bowl of fruit salad. A platter of celery and carrot sticks with other fresh vegetables is always a hit if it's served with a tasty dip. Toasted pita bread with hummus or bean dip is a nice touch for adults.

2. Salads and Side Dishes

A mixed green salad with bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and different types of greens will put a healthy helping of fresh vegetables on everybody's plate. Toss it with a creamy dressing that both children and adults will enjoy, or offer the dressing on the side. Whole grain pasta works as a side dish for almost any dinner. Offer guests a choice between familiar dishes such as bow-tie pasta with tomato and basil sauce and pasta with pesto.

3. Main Course

A lot of cooks rely on boneless, skinless chicken breast for the main course when there are a lot of guests to please. It's a high-protein, low-fat main dish that can be served without much fuss or dressed up with an endless combination of sauces and spices. Children always seem to appreciate the chicken nuggets, and there are many choices of packaged seasonings that can make a tasty batch of nuggets without much work.

4. Beverages

A smoothie bar where a volunteer can make each guest a custom-made smoothie is tasty and fun. Guests can work together to concoct original recipes. In addition to a blender, the smoothie bartender will need a variety of juices, plenty of crushed ice and chopped fruits such as pineapple, strawberries, bananas and melon. Yogurt, vanilla extract and coconut milk are also good ingredients to have on hand. A fruit garnish adds a festive touch and most kids, and many adults, enjoy drinks served with little cocktail umbrellas. The smoothies work well to accompany what's really the main course at a birthday party -- the cake.

About the Author

Laura Scott has been reporting for Gatehouse Media New England, Essex County Newspapers and other regional publishers since 1997. She won several New England Press Association awards for her coverage of the fishing industry and coastal communities. Scott is a graduate of Vassar College and has a master's degree in American studies from Boston College. She also attended art school in Italy.

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