Parents: Healthy Holiday Eating for Kids

During December you see many similar articles revolving around how to eat healthy during the holidays.  So much so that, as parents, you may forget to think about the effects of heavy holiday fare on your kids.  I’m not saying you should take away all the sugar plums dancing in their heads.  However, it is just as important for children to practice moderation.

1.  Teach moderation early.  It really is never too early to instill a sense of portion control in your children.  One of the best ways to do this is by example.  Another tactic is using red and green light foods. 

  • Green light foods are nutritious such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, crackers and tortillas, lean meats and low fat dairy.  Think of foods that are along the perimeter of the grocery store.  Kids can always grab these items when they need a snack. 
  • Red light foods generally aren’t the healthiest choices available including packaged cookies, chips, candy, pop, cake, ect.  Kids need to ask parents before getting them and also must realize that they are not an everyday food. 
  •  Yellow light foods are in between red and green light foods.  Examples include goldfish crackers, juice, granola bars, sugary cereal, ect.  Think of the packaged foods in the middle aisles.  Kids also need to ask for these items before they can have them.

2.  Help them navigate buffet situations.  These happen often during the holidays.  Encourage your children to pick two decadent items; one to have now and one to save for later.  On the flip side, suggest that they fill their plate with healthy items (green light foods).

3.  Set out sensible snacks.  Instead of the usual Chex Mix or plate of cookies sitting around, aim to have healthy choices like cut-up veggies with low fat dip, fruit, whole grain crackers or nuts.  You want to be prepared if dinner starts getting pushed back and kids are getting cranky.  Try this easy fiesta greek yogurt veggie dip:

Fiesta Ranch Greek Yogurt Dip

  • 12 oz. plain, fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 package Hidden Valley Ranch Fiesta flavor
  • ¼ cup light sour cream

 Place all ingredients into a bowl and stir until well-blended.  For the best flavor, allow to chill for at least an hour before serving.

4.  Be a weekly meal planning warrior!  The days leading up to the holidays can be just as busy as the holidays themselves with shopping, get-togethers, school events, and more.  Instead of flying by the seat of your pants and eating fast food often, make sure you plan ahead.  Pick one day you do your grocery shopping, come ready with a list based on your meal choices and stick to your menu.  To learn more, check out my post on meal planning.  And for quick and easy recipes check out my wordless Wednesday post on 5 ingredient or less meals.

5.  Try some non-food holiday traditions.  Don’t get my wrong.  If you asked me what my favorite thing to do every holiday growing up I would say making cookies with my mom and sister.  With that being said, we gave most of them away as gifts to friends and family.  So if you are a baker I definitely suggest getting your kids involved.  Just try making half batches, package them up as gifts or freeze a majority of them to be enjoyed later on in the year.

There are also many other holiday activities you and your kids can do that don’t involve food.  Check out the Family Fun website.  I also like some of the crafty ideas found on blogs, especially this glitter flatwear (pictured left) from Oh Happy Day and this easy holiday garland from The Sweetest Occasion.  I think I would have just as much fun making these crafts as my kids.

6.  Watch out for liquid calories.  A glass of sparkling juice here and some egg nog there may not seem like a big deal.  But have them multiple times during the holiday season and they add up.  Just to give you an idea, a cup of eggnog has 343 calories and a cup of sparkling cider has 150 calories mainly from sugar (31 grams).  Try making a couple of healthy yet still festive swaps.  Silk nog soymilk has 180 calories per cup, which is less than half of the full fat, cow’s milk version.  Instead of sparkling cider, try using half seltzer water, half juice and adding frozen fruit and a squeeze of lime. 

7.  Get Active!  Make a snow man, play a game of snow football with the neighbors, or even get a game of charades going indoors.  It can totally be fun AND get you moving.

Implement these tips not only for a healthier holidays for your kids (and yourself) but also to instill a healthy relationship with food overall.  And that, I believe, is one of the best gifts that you can give your children.  Even better than an iPod…though I’m sure they think that would be pretty cool too.

- Lindsay

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