Healthier Alterantives for Cupcakes

Updated on January 05, 2019
N.Z. asks from Los Angeles, CA
23 answers

Parents typically drop off cupcakes to celebrate birthdays, which are served during afternoon snack time (after nap) at my son's preschool. My son doesn't nap at the preschool so the teachers asked that I bring them during morning snack time. However, I don't feel comfortable serving sugary cupcakes to 3-4 year olds before 10 a.m. Any suggestions for healthier alternatives? I would still like whatever I bring to be a "treat," so please don't suggest celery and carrots with hummus or fruit -- the school already provides healthy snacks during snack time. Thank you!

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answers from New York on

My kids have always preferred a yummy muffin over a cupcake any day of the week. Blueberry, lemon, strawberry, apple cinnamon - yum. I use applesauce and maple syrup in place of oils and sweeteners.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Jello? Goldfish? Fruit snacks? Granola bars? Still pretty sugary, but somehow cookie cake seems like less sugar than cupcakes to me, I guess since there is less frosting.

What about a combination snack? This is what we do at my kids school (not allowed to have sugary stuff as the primary snack). For example, at the winter holiday party, we did bundled bananas (bananas with faces, a ribbon for a scarf, and a little hat) along with a small piece of Hershey's chocolate in a snowman shape.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

It's a TREAT - so why not celebrate?? I doubt there is a birthday EVERY day in the classroom.

Why not make Banana Walnut Muffins? Instead of using sugar - use apple sauce - make a small batch first to make sure you like them.


4 bananas , about 1 1/3 cups, mashed
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (white or whole wheat)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
Grease a standard muffin pan (or line with paper muffin liners). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mash bananas in a mixing bowl. Add egg, vanilla, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cinnamon and stir well to combine.
In a separate small bowl stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to banana mixture and stir, just to combine.
Gently stir in melted butter. Don't over-mix the batter.
Spoon the batter into prepared muffin pan and bake for 18-25 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.
Recipe Notes
To freeze:

Allow muffins to cool completely. Store them in a freezer-safe ziplock bag or air-tight tupperware.

No Bake Granola Bars
Print RecipeSave to Meal Plan
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
3 mins
1 hr
Total Time
13 mins

Thick and chewy No Bake Granola Bars that wont fall apart.
Servings: 18
2 1/4 cups quick cooking oats
1 1/2 cups crispy rice cereal (like Rice Krispies)
2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed (optional)
6 Tablespoons butter (*see note)
1/3 cup honey
3/4 cup light brown sugar , packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips , or other favorite add-in's
Line 8 or 9’’ square pan with parchment paper, with paper some overhang.

In a large mixing bowl stir together oats, rice krispies cereal and flaxseed.

Add butter, brown sugar and honey to a large microwave safe bowl and heat mixture on HIGH power for 1 minute. Remove from microwave and stir mixture until butter has melted. Return to microwave and heat on HIGH power for 1 1/2 minutes.

Carefully remove from microwave and stir in vanilla. Pour over oats mixture and stir gently until coated evenly. Gently stir in chocolate chips.

Pour mixture into prepared pan. Lightly grease your hands with cooking spray and press the mixture evenly into the pan.

Lay a piece of parchment or wax paper over the top of the bars and press extra firmly all around the pan to flatten the bars. This is the most important step to insure they don't crumble when you cut them.

Sprinkle mini chocolate chips on top and press them gently onto the tops of the bars.

Refrigerate for about 1-2 hours before pulling up on the parchment paper to remove them from the pan and cut them.

Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for firmer bars or at room temperature for softer bars). 
Bars are best enjoyed within 7 days.

*Substitute the chocolate chips for other favorite mix-ins, like chopped almonds, coconut, or Craisins.

Frozen smoothies - strawberry and bananas

Strawberry Banana Overnight Oats take just seconds to throw together and refrigerate overnight for a healthy, delicious, and quick breakfast the next day.

½ cup strawberry yogurt
½ cup vanilla almond milk (or any milk)
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup fresh strawberries , diced
½ banana , sliced
1-2 Tablespoons chia seeds (optional)
Mix yogurt and milk together.

Stir in oats.
Stir in fruit and chia seeds (if using).
Refrigerate overnight.
Top with additional fruit and or honey in the morning, if desired. Enjoy!

Yogurt with fresh fruit would be nice too...

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Homemade or store bought granola bars (make sure no one has nut allergies)
Cake pops

fruit popsicles (small thin ones)

dry cereal without milk (fruit loops etc)
dried fruit mix
granola mix w/m&m's

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Bring the cupcakes! Kids will love them.


Bring the cupcakes! Kids will love them.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

angel food cake with strawberries and whip cream (or other fruit toppings)
soft pretzels
trail mix (goldfish, pretzels, raisins or craisins, m&m's)
yogurt covered raisins or craisins

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

muffins, doughnuts and cinnamon rolls are all super sugary, so if you're not going with fruit or pretzels with yogurt dip, you're looking at a sugary snack.

if you bake them yourself you can always cut the sugar with applesauce and maple syrup, with a whipped cream frosting that's only lightly sweetened.


4 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

Maybe mini bagels and cream cheese? Blueberry muffins? Parfait layered yogurt, granola and fruit? I did parfaits for my daughter one year because she’s not a huge sweet fan and really doesn’t eat ice cream. The kids loved it. I had a couple of different flavors of yogurt, fruit, granola, whip cream, etc.

Rice krispy treats are always a big hit too. I make mine with peanut butter and they always go over well. I’d probably not do that this time though in case of allergies.

You could get ice cream cones and fill them with chopped fruit (apples, grapes, banana, kiwis, toasted coconut).

Not sure it would be any healthier, but s’mores would be fun. I’ve seen s’mores snack mix recipes and you could serve in small cups.

I’m sure they will love whatever you decide. And cupcakes at 10 isn’t the end of the world every once in a great while. You could even go with mini size so you don’t feel too guilty. 😊

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

Anything with carbs is sugar so even if it seams healthier it's still sugar. Bagels are high in fat so not really a healthy alternative. Be careful with granola or anything with peanut butter. Some kids are so allergic to peanuts that many schools have banned peanut butter sandwiches for all kids. My grandson is very allergic to tree nuts but can have peanut butter and peanuts but almonds, cashews etc. are deadly for him. Also many schools don't like moms to bring in home made treats because of sanitary issues. If they are made in a commercial kitchen they should have been made by a staff aware of hand washing and gloves as well as having on a hair net.
If the school says bring cupcakes - bring cupcakes. As long as the kids are able to run off the energy the sugar won't hurt them.
Please understand I am not criticizing you. I understand the need for healthy treats but truly a cupcake is not much different than muffins or bagels.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

How about getting sugar-free cupcakes for diabetics? We have diabetics in my office, so we get birthday cakes or cupcakes that are sugar-free for them. They taste much better than you'd think.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

A friend makes her cakes with regular cake mix, but applesauce instead of oil, and egg whites instead of regular eggs.You can google the equivalencies.

My son was very into granola bars - you can find recipes by inserting the ingredients you have, then looking at suggested, relevant recipes. He made them with cashew or almond butter (not sure if your preschool is nut-free - if so, use sunflower seed butter), oatmeal, rice krispies, dried fruit (currants, raisins, craisins), good quality chocolate chips (65% cacoa), and various other add-ins.

Here's one recipe along the same lines:

You can do mini muffins with flax seek, oats, bran, whole wheat flour. You can do corn muffins. Add fruit like blueberries. Make a cranberry nut bread (recipe on the Ocean Spray cranberry bag or website) which include orange juice and nuts.. Cut back the sugar and substitute stevia. Swap out white flour for whole wheat. Try zucchini bread.

Visit your local library - they have entire sections of cookbooks which will make you swoon.

I've seen pretzel rods with a little icing and a few sprinkles. You could do a yogurt-based icing and refrigerate them. Not horrible healthwise.

You could do yogurt parfaits if the kids can manage a spoon - use a plastic cup (see-through) and do a layer of yogurt (any flavor or Greek), a layer of oatmeal or granola, some fruit or whole-fruit preserves, repeat. They need a spoon but it's no messier than muffins.

Fruit kabobs - use a plastic long toothpick with an "arrowhead" on the end - alternate chunks of melon (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon), pineapple, half a grape, blueberry or raspberry or part of a strawberry, piece of peeled kiwi. Mix up the colors. To make it super fun, make a fruit "porcupine" - insert the fruit picks in an inverted half a watermelon (scooped and drained) - use a skewer or knife point to make starter holes, then insert the picks. No silverware necessary.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

How about a "breakfast treat" - cinnamon rolls, muffins, Rice Krispy treats, chocolate-covered Cheerios.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Maybe fruit snacks, muffins or rich crispy treats. I know they have some sugar in them but much less that cupcakes. My son is much older but when we take stuff for his birthday to the gym we have taken ice pops a few times which have less sugar than cupcakes too. Granted his birthday is in the summer.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

I'd just do muffins instead. Not as healthy as fruit and vegetables, but won't have as much sugar as a cupcake (if you make them yourself).

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My son is in first grade. The school made a request this year regarding birthday celebrations. Since they have had an incredible increase over the last few years of kids with allergies, they have requested non-food snacks. For my son's birthday, I made little bags he passed out containing stickers, bounce balls, pencils, fun erasers and play dough, along with a few pieces of candy and some fruit snacks. He passed them out and they sang happy birthday. He still got the celebration without the sugar. The teacher told me the kids really liked the bags too.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I thought of rice krispy snacks (you can do sprinkles on top to make festive) OR you can do mini cupcakes.

I did this once at a birthday party we had where we took the kids to see a movie. I knew they'd be having popcorn, etc. too and didn't want sick kids (some I knew would down their popcorn and drink) but I felt that cake and singing happy birthday was part of the fun. So they have those mini cupcakes that are tiny. Still fun (kids loved) and yet very small.

If you can't find them at the bakery, I actually have tins for them (just tiny muffin tins) so you could make them if you had to. Your son may prefer that (special for his day) over something else if other kids bring in cupcakes. Just scrimp on the frosting too.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Muffins or cookies are still sweet but less sugary. I remember bringing snickerdoodles a few times (one of our family favorites) and the kids absolutely loved them. Donut holes were another hit for morning treats, if you don't want to bake, and also a little less sugar as they are smaller than regular donuts of course :-)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Cupcakes are perfect for a birthday! Maybe not the healthiest choice, but so what? I can’t imagine that a birthday is celebrated every day so let the kids enjoy a small treat! They sell tiny cupcakes already made at most bakeries in your local grocery store. Easy peasy!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Pretzels with maybe some sort of dip

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answers from Dallas on

we used to bring vanilla wafers and strawberry cream cheese and make little sandwiches. I paired those with a strawberry/grape kabob. The kids loved them.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

All schools are different in what they allow. You don’t say if you will be making the treat or buying. Our preschool doesn’t allow homemade food. Non food treats seem to be the most popular with the kiddos. Little sticker books, small handheld water games found at the dollar store were a recent big hit and kept them sitting and quiet for a while trying to figure it out. Applesauce pouches that have been decorated like caricature, check Pinterest.



answers from Denver on

Hello, as some have stated, most snacks are very high in sugar- too much sugar for these tiny bodies. I am a nutritionist and here is one that my clients love

Here is a healthier cookie option but still has some sugar...

And here is an apple bread that can be made as muffins

I would opt for gluten and dairy free and low sugar and ideally have it contain some protein to help balance out all those carbs.

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