Navigating the Holiday Eating Season with Children, Part 2
We started with the “why” behind the idea of healthy holiday eating in Part 1 with a myriad of reasons why it’s beneficial for your kids to eat well and to eat nutritiously during the holiday season. Now we’re going to go to the application side of this: how do we do it? After all, it doesn’t matter if it sounds good or that in our mind we’re well convinced that it’s a good thing to do, even the right thing to do, what matters is that we carry it out. So, here’s a brief overview of what this might look like in your home or at least an outline that you can take with you and tailor to fit your own family.
Before anything else, you’re going to have to do a little mental work. Making it through the holiday season with a healthy eating plan that stays intact is going may take more work and time than you’re used to devoting. You already know how busy you’ll be and how much easier it is to have frozen pizzas for the nights where you have just half an hour between recitals and your holiday party. So, that said: gear up mentally, remember why you’re doing all of this, and then get ready for the idea that ensuring a healthy dinner one night might mean getting up 45 minutes earlier or spending a few extra hours on an otherwise lazy Sunday getting some snack preparation done.
Stick to the Routine
By sticking to the routine that’s already in place and not wavering early on, you’ll have less resistance from the whole family. As soon as the “healthy” goes out the window even momentarily for a few days and after-school snacks become Christmas cookies and meals become delivery or take out, your kids will likely get caught up even more in the excitement and start to expect it. Deciding to be firm and to carry on as normal from the start makes the month’s eating a seamless transition and may even spare you a few tears along the way.
Have Fun with the Normal!
No one says that healthy has to boring or “not-holiday-appropriate.” Give your kids an opportunity to feel like they get to indulge in fun holiday foods by getting creative! Having sliced fruit and a yogurt dip for a snack? Do vanilla yogurt, divide it into two bowls and drop some red food coloring in one, green in the other. Instant festive! Do green celery with red vegetable cream cheese. Instead of using Christmas cookie cutters on sugar cookies, use them on whole wheat biscuits, whole grain pancakes, or even on their sandwiches for lunch!
Substitute to Satisfy
By no means does “healthy” holiday eating mean that kids need to be deprived of every possible treat. Rather, I would encourage moderation in everything and also encourage you to be aware that the more splurges that happen, the harder it is to curb them. So, perhaps instead of baking shortbread, make a healthier alternative cookie. Your children will still get treats, still have something to take with them to their school Christmas party, and you can feel satisfied that they are at least getting some nutritional value and not getting hooked on the sugar rush. Baking cookies? Use stevia or honey instead of sugar and use applesauce instead of butter and oil. Ditch the chocolate chips and go for walnuts and cranberries. Need a kindergarten snack? Go ahead and make rice krispies treats, but go for the brown rice version at your local natural foods store, use organic low sugar marshmallows and vanilla and skip the butter altogether. Add some red and green food coloring and you’re set!
Indulge & Treat without Food
It’s inevitable, holidays in our culture simply tend to center around food and that’s just where our minds naturally go to when we think of a treat that’s holiday appropriate or that we think we need/crave/deserve. You can help your children avoid this allure as adults by treating them with things other than food starting now! Instead of Christmas cookies and milk being the highlight of after school time during December, what about bundling up and making snowmen or having holiday skit time? The family time together and fun will be much more rewarding. Instead of grabbing plastic candy canes stuffed with Hershey kisses at the check out line, why not grab a holiday coloring book? There are plenty of ways to indulge in holiday treats where the focus is not a sugar loaded food item.
With a little extra time, some doses of creativity and a passion to ensure that your kids get all the nutrition and energy from their food that they’re used to, you can help your family make it through the holiday season healthy, happy and energized at all times.
[author_info]About the Author
Freelancer Jocelyn writes for Air & Water and is currently working on working on content especially designed to help families find affordable and efficient electric heaters for their homes this winter.