You might be missing out on some of the holiday parties this year, but it will still be easy to overindulge this holiday season (and may be even easier since we’re stuck at home and perhaps feeling down)! Freshly baked pies, stuffing, holiday cookies, hot chocolate, and candy canes will be calling your name, but just as adults pack on the pounds around the holidays, so can kids.
Dr. Dyan Hes, Medical Director of Gramercy Pediatrics, offers some sweet tips to help make the holidays a bit healthier for children and even for their parents.
- Avoid eating in front of the TV — If you decide to curl up on the couch for a holiday movie, instead of bringing the whole bag of chips put a portion size amount into a bowl to take with you. Also avoid eating meals in front of the TV. Focus on the food you’re eating, not only will you enjoy it more, you will avoid eating too much at once.
- Teach your Child Portion Control when Choosing from the Dessert Table – “Often there are multiple desserts on a holiday table. By allowing your child to choose their favorite, not only gives them a sense of freedom in their food choices, but also teaches portion control and limitations,” recommends Dr. Hes. If your child wants to taste several desserts, then give them a small taste of each one that equals one serving. “If a child is completely denied a dessert, it will only make them want it more.”
- Keep Sugary Drinks to a Minimum – The holidays are the perfect time to break out the sparkling cider and hot cocoa. But just as adults need to watch their consumption of highly caloric beverages, so should kids. A 12oz hot chocolate with whipped cream can have up to 400 calories and about 40 grams of sugar! Dr. Hes recommends keeping an eye on how many “holiday beverages” your child is consuming during meals and parties. “Make hot chocolate from low sugar instant mixes and use reduced fat (light) whipped cream or skip it entirely,” says Dr. Hes. “There is also a ton of sugar in fruit juice, and although sparkling cider is fun, limit your child to one glass to celebrate.”
- Lead by Example – Children learn eating habits from their parents. Don’t use the holidays as an excuse to overindulge, but as another touch point to teach kids healthier eating habits. If you are piling up on desserts, your child will think it is acceptable. Make sure to load your plates with lots of veggies during dinner and limit the sweets to one after the meal.
- Create Healthier Food Traditions – Much of the holidays are focused on food and many families have special dishes that have become traditions. Those “traditional dishes” are often highly caloric and filled with fat. Grandmother’s sausage stuffing, or Aunt Sara’s cheesy casserole might be a “must” for every holiday meal, but they can also expand the waist quickly. Instead, Dr. Hes recommends creating new healthier favorites that are reserved only for the holidays and get kids excited to see them on the table. We make chopped salad (Mediterranean style) that everyone loves and always have fruit salad as a dessert option.
- Non-Food Activities – Food may play an important role in the holidays, but adding other fun into the festivities takes the focus off eating. Kids love games, making arts and crafts, decorating the house, acting out stories, and loads of other activities that can involve the whole family. Be creative and come up with something that is unique and special to your family’s holiday traditions.
- Get your families moving – It’s great to play outside while the food is cooking, just be sure to bundle your kids up. The whole family can take a brisk walk after a big feast. The kids get a big kick out of carrying flashlights and going out for a walk in the dark! Have games set up at home that the kids can play like jump rope or hula hoop competitions that they can do indoors.
- Drink 2 cups of water before sitting down to a big meal — This will not cleanse you but it will leave you feeling more full.
- You don’t have to finish everything on your plate — Sometimes we have “big eyes” and pile the food onto our plate and half way through we are stuffed. This is ok. No one is going to mind if you don’t finish the food on your plate. That being said….
- Don’t go for seconds immediately — Get up from the table to resist the temptations to take seconds. Then in 15 minutes think if you are really still hungry. Most often, you are not.