Have Your Birthday Cake and Eat It Too

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Maxing out on munchies is the traditional way to celebrate a birthday, and for many of us, the revelry is worth one day of calorie chaos.

Still, it’s nice to have a few healthy options for those times when we might want a less caloric celebration.

With that in mind, WebMD polled experts and birthday celebrants for ideas on how to enjoy a happy — but healthier — birthday. For some, that meant whipping up a few light recipes; for others, finding entirely new ways to celebrate.

Get the Party Started — With Produce

Those with summer birthdays have a great advantage when throwing a party: the bounty of fresh produce bursting from market bins.

“Take advantage of the season,” says Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic’s “Recipe Doctor” and author of heart-healthy to boot. A serving has fewer calories than you think — under 200 for four dipped berries.

Zero-Calorie Fun

If turning a year older gives you — or the one you love — the blues, why not try something new? Here are a few fun (and calorie-free) ideas for great things to do and cool gifts to give:

  • Take flight. “[Go for] a ride in a hot air balloon,” recommends Susan Schultz, a bakery manager in Fayetteville, Texas, who enjoys finding new ways to celebrate her birthday. “It’s very quiet when the propane is off and you’re just floating along!” Many small airports offer gift certificates for this serene experience, as well as for trips in a glider or ultra-light airplane, or even skydiving lessons.
  • Give back. Celebrate your birthday by doing something good for someone else. Donate blood; pick up trash at the park; visit a nursing home; or take a donation to a soup kitchen or the Humane Society.
  • Take a lesson. Ever wanted to go rock climbing or learn to play golf? A birthday celebration is the perfect time to start, says Ginger Stinnett LaRose, a party planner in Atlanta. Get the festivities started by hiring an instructor to give a group lesson, says LaRose. “That way you get to try a new activity with the support of your friends,” she says. And who knows — maybe some of your buddies will take an interest, and you’ll adopt a new activity to enjoy together.
  • Stock up. Does your father-in-law love Starbucks? Is your niece devoted to her Apple computer? Buy a loved one a stock certificate from a favorite company, frame it, and give as a gift. It might even inspire some serious investing.
  • Go for a ride. Schultz loved the camel ride she took through a national park. You might get excited exploring a canyon on horseback. Or try getting 15-20 of your nearest and dearest together for a leisurely hay ride through town. Pack picnics, enjoy the scenery, and relish the best part — no post-party cleanup.
  • Attend a fair. Summer’s a great time for local fairs, from agricultural expositions to medieval festivals. Contact your area chamber of commerce to find out what’s happening near you.
  • Host a themed party. Pick a favorite healthy goodie — mangos? green tea? red wine? — and ask friends to bring a dish or gift that fits the theme. You might get homemade mango sorbet, a book on Japanese tea ceremonies, or a pair of pretty wine glasses.

And if your birthday leaves something behind – it won’t be a few pounds.