Healthy Party Planning - With Pizza!

Chris Molnar's picture

Whether you are a seasoned party planner or you are throwing a party for the first time, deciding what to feed your guests is usually an afterthought - chips, pretzels and hot dogs likely sound familiar. Planning a creative and healthy menu is a challenge for most of us.

However, once you have determined the theme, you can match the snacks. Having an Elmo birthday party theme? Because Elmo is red, you could serve watermelon, apples, and raspberry juice. Elmo has a pet fish named Dorothy, so you can also serve fish sticks.

The point is, if you're throwing a birthday party for kids, you could center the food and activities around his or her favorite characters. Superman and Batman are still hits among boys, while girls love Dora the Explorer and all the Disney characters. What's the perfect healthy choice? Pizza! Surprised? Don't be.

Pizza is one of those incredibly versatile foods that is meant to be healthy, but turn into junk food when crossing from Europe to greasy North American pizza chains.

Why does pizza give you an upset stomach and cause weight gain? Here are the facts (and I just went to a pizza class yesterday, so these points are fresh in my mind):

Reasons why most pizza is bad for you:

  • cheap sauce using less than grade-A tomatoes - restaurants than add food dye and salt to cover the bad taste
  • Artificial or fatty cheeses
  • Cheap herbs - herbs are NOT regulated by the government. This means, if pepper is 1% pepper and 99% filler (sticks, grass, insect parts, dirt), it can still be legally sold as pepper!
  • Cheap, processed meats - to add flavor, truckloads of salt is added

The typical North American pizza involves lots of cheese (often ten times the amount of a European pizza), processed salty meats, and more cheese. If the adage was ever true for pizza, less actually is more!

With that in mind, we can built our own pizza, and one that's not only healthy but also jazzed up and fun! Fun, great-looking foods are much tastier, and you'll be amazed as your kids will even eat the asparagus or broccoli placed on top!

Healthy Funny Face Pizza

Pizza Dough

  • 3 cups fine-grind, whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1 tsp sea salt (stronger taste and less sodium content - make sure the sea salt comes from a country near the sea!)
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Whisk salt and sugar into the water. Add flour and mix for about 2 minutes. Let the mixture sit for half an hour.

Then, add the yeast and oil and mix for 5 minutes, shaping it into a ball. Divide into two. Set aside in the mixing bowl, covered, for about an hour, or overnight in your fridge.

Pizza Sauce

  • 1 22 oz can of Grade-A crushed tomatoes (if the jar has a rubber lining, avoid it - it is not Grade-A, and is so acidic the can needs a rubber lining to protect the tin. No, I'm not making this up!)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Sea Salt and Pepper (remember what I said about pepper? Go for McCormick - expensive, but the ingredients are 100% herbs)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil

Combine spices and tomatoes in a sauce pan. Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes. An alternative is to simply combine and let it sit overnight in your fridge.

Set your oven to 450 degrees. Knead your dough patty into a circular pizza shape -a rolling pin works well too.

Add toppings and bake with oven rack in lowest position until pizza is golden and bubbly, about 7 to 10 minutes. I usually broil for the last two minutes on the higher rack.

From Plain ol' Pizza to Party Fun!

  • Flour
  • Grated low-fat Mozzarella cheese
  • Blanched broccoli bushes (cut in half) or asparagus spears
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Pepperoni
  • Pepper Slices (red)
  • Sliced provolone
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Olives

Thinking of your child's favorite character, create their face, or at least a semblance of one. Add pizza sauce and sprinkle a small amount of the grated cheese over it. Add asparagus to make straight hair, broccoli for bushy hair. Use mushroom pieces for a nose and ears, pepperoni for the eyes and black olives for the pupils. Sprinkle extra cheese on top.

Ideas for other characters:

  • For Elmo: Lots of pepperoni and red pepper. Mushrooms and olives for eyes. You can easily shape the pizza into his slightly oval face and two small oval add-ons for the eyes.
  • For a Disney princess: Place the broccoli spears in a zigzag to make the crown
  • Spider Man - Pepperoni for the face, mushrooms for the eyes, sliced olives for the black web work

What you'll discover is that with little effort, you can create food that is both fun to look at and delicious and healthy to eat. Because food that looks good, tastes yummy!

Your pizza can be paired with 100% juice or, if you're a grown up pizza lover, try it with red wine or light beer. There, you and your kids can eat something fun, delicious and healthy at the same time. Have a great party!

Contributed by Chris Molnar, editor of Themeaparty.com. Check out themed party supplies, food ideas for each one, decor ideas and much more for hundreds of children's and adult parties. Click here for daily ideas on his party blog. Chris makes pizza at least once a week, and often slaps it on the barbecue as a healthy alternative to burgers and hot dogs.

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