What kind of food should I serve at baby's first birthday party? Baby's First Birthday

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first birthday party cupcake
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When planning your baby's first birthday party, you may be debating how to pull together a menu that's as easy as it is crowd-pleasing. Here, a party-planning pro and moms weigh in on their top choices for first birthday party food. 

Healthy, Hearty & Neat Foods

"If you are entertaining parents with small children, I like to consider food that is healthy and hearty but not too messy. Typically parents always have their hands full, so it's best to serve food that is easy to eat and isn't too complicated. Stay away from anything that can stain, skewers that can cause an accident, or anything that can easily spill.

"I always like to set up a separate kids' food station so that children have their own area and can dive into the food on their own. I...

"If you are entertaining parents with small children, I like to consider food that is healthy and hearty but not too messy. Typically parents always have their hands full, so it's best to serve food that is easy to eat and isn't too complicated. Stay away from anything that can stain, skewers that can cause an accident, or anything that can easily spill.

"I always like to set up a separate kids' food station so that children have their own area and can dive into the food on their own. I always like to put out organic applesauce packets, pre-cut bite-sized fruit, bowls of dried cereals with a scoop, and mini finger sandwiches.

"It’s always a good idea to ask your guests if their children have any allergies and then avoid those foods altogether. I also like to keep anything sugary or sweet away from the kids until the main meal has been served, since they will likely want to forego anything healthy and dive right into the sweets. Parents have likely had their fill of kid food, so always put out some food for the adults that is more hearty. I like doing assorted sandwich sliders, a lovely cold salad, and some bite-sized snacks that they can easily eat while chasing their kids around." -- Gina Wade, entertaining and lifestyle expert and special events planner, Gina Wade Creative, Los Angeles, California

Make It Simple

"You can serve anything that is already created for you on a recyclable plastic tray that you pick up at the grocery store or local restaurant. The absolute last thing the mother of a 1-year-old has time for? Making all of the food for a first birthday party and then presenting it beautifully in the hours before the party starts!

"Pick up some small sandwiches or sliders that adults and kids alike crave. Make sure to get some veggie sandwiches and gluten-free wraps to accommodate a variety of...

"You can serve anything that is already created for you on a recyclable plastic tray that you pick up at the grocery store or local restaurant. The absolute last thing the mother of a 1-year-old has time for? Making all of the food for a first birthday party and then presenting it beautifully in the hours before the party starts!

"Pick up some small sandwiches or sliders that adults and kids alike crave. Make sure to get some veggie sandwiches and gluten-free wraps to accommodate a variety of dietary needs. [Or] create a children's buffet (especially if there will be older children in attendance) and a separate adult's buffet. The children's buffet can have a kids' take on more adult dishes (i.e., grilled chicken breasts with a tomato-basil salsa for the grown-ups and chicken fingers with ketchup for the kids)." -- Kristen Koly Blanks, owner of PartyEase, Columbus, Ohio

Finger Foods & Toddler-Friendly Snacks

"I don't think it needs to be extravagant. Finger foods and snacks are fine if you're not intent on serving an actual meal. A couple of trays of pasta or pizzas for something more substantial. I like to include toddler-friendly snacks like Goldfish, pretzels, and juice if other kids will be there. For dessert, get a small smash cake for baby and then just a simple sheet cake or cupcakes for guests."

Italian Food Is Crowd-Pleasing

"Italian food is my go-to for most parties. Whether it's catered or I make it myself, I go with Italian. Most people like it, and [it's] easy to make a lot for a crowd. You can even put together a tray of lasagna -- veggie or meat -- way ahead of time and throw it in the freezer. If you are having an event and people are bringing gifts, don’t skimp on the food. Feed them!"

Take Various Factors into Consideration

"This is a matter of a few factors: finances, ages of guests, culture, and diet. There's nothing wrong with burgers or pizza or tofu and salad. This is an interesting but also individual choice. I'm not vegan, but I'd attend a vegan menu–themed party simply to support those I love!"

Easy Snacks for Grazing

"When my first baby turned one, I went all out with a huge birthday party -- not so much with the other two kids! -- and made sure to serve a combination of foods that were both easy for toddlers to eat and parents to snack on while they chased their little ones around: Things like fresh fruit (cut up into small enough pieces not to be choking hazards), lightly steamed veggies with dips, little cubes of cheese, mini muffins, and of course, pizza -- because even one-year-old kids love pizza!" 

Get Catered Platters & Beverages

"My oldest just turned 3, and I have done the same thing for all three parties so far. The guest list is our friends and family and their kids. I get veggie, fruit, and other platters catered. I serve wine and beer. The kids run around and play and all the adults catch up. We then have cupcakes or a cake. No themes and minimal decor. Maybe some flowers and a balloon or two. It’s just about being with people we care about and good times."

Go With a Taco Bar

"Tacos! It's so easy and inexpensive to feed a crowd!"

Save Yourself Some Stress

"I went all out for my daughter’s first birthday. My parents refer to it as the mini bat mitzvah and we got it catered -- carnival theme, so carnival-type food -- mini hot dogs, mac and cheese, etc., and I had over 60 people here, because I am a crazy person. Bottom line? Do the opposite of me because it was a lot of stress for me!"

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.