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Healthy Holiday Eating Tips for Kids

Categories: Nutrition Pediatrics

The holidays are heading our way. And with them come lots of treats and holidays food feasts for the whole family. Kristin Morrow, RD, LDN, CDE, nutritionist, shares some tips on how to help kids to follow a healthy diet over the holidays.

Kids face the same eating challenges over the holidays as adults such as school parties and visiting family and friends; with food being a focal point of these gatherings.

Adults tend to allow kids to have extra sweets at the holidays, like a special breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes with syrup well before the big dinner event on Thanksgiving, leftover pie after every dinner until it's gone and hot chocolate and cookies with sugary toppings for nighttime snacks in December.

How can children eat healthy at holidays parties?

Provide your child with regular meals and snacks during the day, so that they are not extremely hungry when they get to the party. Include good sources of fiber like fruits and vegetables, protein like lean meat, nuts and beans, and a little healthy fat like oils, olives, or vinaigrette salad dressing to increase their feeling of satisfaction and help with blood sugar stability so they are not as eager to eat all the sugary and fatty treats when they arrive at a party.

Should children help with cooking during the holidays?

Cooking with kids is always a fun and casual opportunity for a teaching lesson. Rather than point out to kids what not to eat as they are shoving a fourth cookie in their mouths, a cooking session allows you to talk about appropriate portions and benefits of the whole grains, fruits and vegetables in the recipes.

Talking about healthy portions and nutritious foods when a child is cooking rather than eating is one of the best ways to keep the focus on the food and avoid the child having guilt feelings as a parent points out they are overindulging. Also, hands-on learning makes the lesson more real for kids, and gives them a sense of accomplishment, which may help them to be more interested in the food they had a hand in making.

How can parents limit sweets during the holidays?

Don't make everything sweet, and allow for that treat later in the day to have a flavor impact. Also, encourage them to slow down their sweet eating. Practice this before a party: have each member of the family take a bite of a cookie and put the cookie down while chewing and savoring the cookie. Don't pick the cookie up again before chewing well and swallowing. This activity makes the sweet last longer and allows the brain and the digestive tract to communicate when enough is consumed.

How important is it for adults to be good role models during the holidays?

Being a good role model is critical for helping kids to develop good eating patterns and a healthy relationship with food during the holidays and year-round. Some tips include:

  • Eat wholesome meals and snacks. Include fruits, vegetables, protein and healthy fat.
  • Don't skip meals to "save" up for later.
  • Be mindful! Don't be distracted by your phone, TV or work while you are eating. This will help you be better prepared to decide when you are full, and it will teach your kids not to engage in distractions during eating as well.
  • Food is not a reward! Giving sweets and treats as rewards sends a message that they are more desirable than other more health-promoting foods with less intense flavors.
  • Try new foods. Different holiday traditions and a plethora of seasonal recipes can help to expose you and your child to different tastes and textures.

What tips do you have for keeping kids active over the holidays?

  • Be active yourself.
  • Take a family walk or play soccer or kickball.
  • Organize a scavenger hunt, asking kids to search the yard or nearby park for items in nature like a 7 inch pine cone, a red leaf, and a black rock, etc.
  • Limit screen time to less than 2 hours. Turn on music for a dance party, start a hula hoop contest, or have everyone pitch in with household chores.

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About Doylestown Health Nutrition Services

Doylestown Health Nutrition Services offers personalized nutrition plans for those with a current medical condition or those interested in preventive health and weight loss. Doylestown Health Nutrition Services specializes in nutrition therapy for diabetes, weight management, cardiovascular disease, digestive and eating disorders, pregnancy, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

About Pediatric Services

Doylestown Health is committed to providing family-centered children's services to Bucks and Montgomery County communities.  The Carol and Louis Della Penna Pediatric Center offers expert inpatient care to all ages including infants, children and teens. Della Penna Pediatric Center Services extend beyond the hospital setting to include health and wellness education, nutrition services and other support services.

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