Think about it. From Thanksgiving — or, really, make that Halloween — through the New Year, kids are offered one tempting treat after another. They catch-on quickly. And before you know it, treats may become a daily habit for them… and us.
This habit is easy to form and challenging to break. We (parents) face the task of helping our children maintain healthy habits and food boundaries during this often-indulgent time of year. It can be done! Kids can enjoy holiday parties and celebrations while eating healthfully (and maybe not even knowing it)! Here are a few tasty ideas…
Kids in the Kitchen
Research tells us that kids who get involved in preparing healthy foods are more likely to eat them. So, along with teaming up to make your favorite holiday cookies and other treats this season, invite your kids into the kitchen to prep some healthy treats too. The Center for Science in the Public Interest suggests healthy party snacks such as:
- Fruit kebobs, alternating red/green grapes or red/green apples
- Raw green beans, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes served with low-fat dip
- Hollowed red and green peppers filled with guacamole and hummus, served with fresh veggies
- Tasty Trail Mix: 1 cup dried fruit, 1 cup Wheat Chex cereal, 1 cup Cheerios, 2 cups pretzel sticks, ½ cup raisins
- Pumpkin Dip: 3 Tbsp. canned pumpkin, 1 cup low fat vanilla yogurt, 1 Tbsp. orange juice concentrate, ½ tsp cinnamon. Dip in with graham crackers.
Kids in the Classroom
Many elementary schools plan for classroom parties and celebrations, and food usually accompanies the fun. But these parties don’t have to be filled with unhealthy foods. Be an advocate for healthier party snacks, like the suggestions offered above, along with other fun activities. A few ideas include:
- Hold a dance party or dance contest
- Plan a scavenger hunt for holiday-related items
- Make snow globes using baby food jars and white glitter or colorful tissue paper
Maintain Healthy Boundaries at Home
Prolonged holiday breaks offer unstructured days in a house filled with scrumptious treats. Prevent boredom eating and all-day grazing with a few simple strategies:
- Discourage eating in front of the television.
- Remove overly tempting foods from your home. If there is something everyone really, really wants, go out for it.
- Plan structured meals and snacks ( i.e., 3 meals + 1 snack) at regular times during the day. Aim for 20 – 30 minutes per meal
- At parties, encourage your child to play games and interact with others, rather than hang around the buffet table
Get Them Moving
It’s easy to stay indoors during holiday breaks. Yet, there are so many ways to get moving outdoors. Take advantage of nature’s playground and adapt to the environment –- sled or puddle jump, ice skate or hike, build a snowman or play basketball. When we get moving, our kids do too.
Above all, enjoy the season. While some of our favorite holiday traditions may not encourage the healthiest of choices, striking a balance with good-for-you foods and activities reinforces to our kids that healthy behaviors are a year-round endeavor.
Anne Marie Kuchera, one of our Kids Plus Nutrition Consultants, is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Dietitian.