The holidays are a time of fun, costumes, candy and parties. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the joy and excitement. At the same time, childhood obesity is on the rise, with one third of our kids being categorized as overweight or obese.
Not to worry, says Kimberly Boone, MS, RDN, LDN, nutrition program coordinator with Le Bonheur’s Healthy Lifestyles Network, as this time of year is the perfect opportunity for parents to teach their children healthy eating habits. In order to avoid getting too carried away during the festivities, here are some helpful tips for parents:
It’s all about balance: It’s OK to let your kids indulge a little. It’s not about what your kids are eating on one particular day of the year. It’s what kids eat during the entirety of the year that matters. There is no need to make treats off limits. Before leaving for that holiday event, make them a light snack before they go – perhaps some fruit, veggies or a broth-based soup. Try serving healthy foods first. Choose foods from all different colors of the rainbow. Each color provides a unique benefit for your child.
Limiting leftover sweets: Limit the last of the sweets at least one hour before bedtime. Sweets contain a lot of sugar that can disturb your child’s sleep and mood. When the festivities are done and over, try putting the treats in a place that’s out of sight and out of mind. Instead, have healthier foods out and about. Parents can also put those treats to good use by mixing them with some dried fruit, whole grains, nuts or seeds to make a healthier version of trail mix.
Eating breakfast: While in the kitchen try having some fun with holiday-inspired snacks. Many fruits and vegetables can actually be used as healthy alternatives in holiday cooking. Unsweetened applesauce, mashed bananas or canned pumpkin puree can be used to replace butter and shortening. You can even use ground flax seed. The soluble fiber in ground flaxseed absorbs moisture and forms a gel, retaining moisture and keeping baked goods soft and moist. Beans can also replace fat and have the added benefit of providing antioxidants and a fudge-like texture.
Staying active: The colder weather is often accompanied by warm comfort foods. After stuffing the turkey, families tend to stay indoors. However, there are plenty of cold weather activities to keep kids and parents moving. Get out and get some fresh air! Rake leaves, build a snowman, go to a new park or trail, go ice skating, etc. There are plenty of activities to do indoors, as well. Have a holiday-themed scavenger hunt, play hide and seek – be creative!
Setting a good example: This one is all on you, parents. A parent has the biggest impact on a child’s behavior. You can’t expect your kids to make healthy choices on their own. Be open minded and be willing to try new foods, too. Be a shining example!