When it comes to the holidays, our healthy eating habits have a tendency to get slack or even to go out the window completely. We realize that our children are about to be inundated with candy (Halloween already got that rolling for us), cookies and mugs of hot chocolate galore. We accept that our time for planning and carrying out healthy, balanced meals is about to plummet. And both of these put together most often give us a “whatever goes” approach when it comes to eating during the months of November and December. Some parents even feel like its good for kids to get to enjoy a “slack” or “fun” eating plan for a while. Yet, what parents don’t realize is that this type of attitude can be harmful for their children now and potentially set them up for tough holiday eating habits to break later on in life.
If you’ve never thought about how you approach holiday eating with your kids, I would strongly encourage you to make this the year. We’re going to be looking at this in two ways, the “why” behind this idea and then a follow-up with some helpful ideas for carrying out a healthy plan. If you’re not convinced that it really matters all that much or that a couple months can actually be “that” detrimental, here are some of the top reasons why a healthy eating season really does matter.
When your kids suddenly find their regular balanced meals gone and instead replaced with a diet based around sweets and more “easy-prep” foods that are highly processed and typically lacking in nutritional value, they’re going to find themselves suddenly deprived of the energy that their body has become accustomed to regularly. They will be tired, irritable and less focused on school and regular tasks. This means trouble for the whole household and probably for your patience as well. Not only that, even schoolwork can begin to suffer (sometimes there’s more to it than just the excitement of Christmas).
Childrens’ immune system can easily be compromised by poor nutrition and lack of crucial vitamins and minerals. This means they’ll find themselves more worn out and lacking resistance to fighting off disease in a season when they will already be more prone to getting sick thanks to an environment ideal for the growth and spread of the flu virus.
If you know what it’s like to be sucked into the holiday eating that tends to include more calories and more carbs, more unhealthy fats and eventually higher numbers on your scale, you likely ate the typical holiday fare as a child without a second thought. Most of us, myself included, see the holidays approaching and we immediately start craving all the goodies. If you have not thought of chocolate or caramel rolls or hors d oeuvres in months and now suddenly you think you need them, there’s a good chance it’s because of the pattern that’s been ingrained in your brain for years and years. In fact, we’ll likely feel left out or ostracized if we don’t get to participate in indulgent eating with everyone else. You can prevent your kids from this trap in the future by making the “holiday eating norm” the same healthy eating you implement the rest of the year. Logically, just because there is a holiday approaching, there is no reason why that should mean that anything goes in terms of eating for anyone, kids and adults alike.
I am not by any means saying that treats should be avoided or that a few holiday cookies should be forbidden. Everything can easily be enjoyed in moderation (as it can be all year long), and you can easily teach this to your children now.
Stay tuned for Part II in which I share simple ways to find a balance with healthy eating that has room for splurges, too.
Guest writer and freelancer Jocelyn Anne writes about healthy eating within the family on a regular basis.