A healthy cause for celebration in early learning services

New Heart Foundation book, Healthy Celebrations, offers healthy alternatives for traditional and cultural celebrations in early learning services.

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,” says 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.”

What does the research tell us?

Research from the University of Auckland revealed almost half of the early learning services surveyed celebrated a special occasion monthly, with 7% of those celebrating every week[1].

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.

Healthy 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.

Funded by the Ministry of Health, Healthy Celebrations is free to download in the resource section on the Fuelled4life website.  Early learning services can request their free hardcopy by contacting fuelled4life@heartfoundation.org.nz or 09 526 8550.


1 Growing up in New Zealand. Preliminary results from Kai Time in ECE.

More findings from the Kai Time in ECE survey can be found at www.growingup.co.nz/kai-time