University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

4 ways to send the year out on a high note (and get students excited for the post-break menu!)

Holiday food photo collage

December is just a few days away - can you believe it? Even if your menu is already set for the last few weeks before the holiday break, there’s still time to add extra sparkle and cheer to the cafeteria.

1) Make-your-own hot chocolate bar

Ladle warmed chocolate milk (or white milk + sugar-free hot cocoa mix) into hot cups, then let students choose from toppings like mini marshmallows, whipped cream, sprinkles, or chocolate shavings. Small amounts of these extras can still fit into the weekly calorie and saturated fat limits. As long as students are served 8 fluid ounces, this can count as the milk component of a reimbursable meal.

BONUS IDEA! Stir in decaf or regular instant coffee crystals to make it mocha and appeal to older students! Try this recipe from Cincinnati Public Schools.

2) Serve winter-themed parfaits

If a hot chocolate bar might be too much, try a cocoa-inspired parfait instead. Here’s a great recipe from Bunker Hill CUSD 8 that credits for 2 M/MA.

3) Blend up winter flavors

No blender? No problem! General Mills’ recipe for Thin Mint Smoothies (scroll to page 11) are quick and easy. Note: You can use any brand of yogurt – we do not endorse specific companies.  

4) Celebrate diversity

Offer traditional foods from other cultures that celebrate holidays in December, either as samples or as part of the menu.

We'd love to see how you add winter magic to your school meal program. Send photos to to show off your great work!