The holidays are a wonderful time of the year; however it is easy to neglect healthy eating habits when temptations are everywhere. Planning ahead during the holidays can help your family stay healthy, while keeping the fun in your festivities.
“As the holidays approach, it’s important to plan special, yet healthy, meals and a mix of activity in your child’s routine,” says Rachel Riddiford, manager of clinical dietetics at Dayton Children’s.
- Portion control. Watching portion sizes will help a child eat healthier and avoid adding extra pounds. Use moderation when choosing foods that are special to the holidays, like cookies, pies and fudge. Choose these holiday specials over candy, soft drinks, and snack cakes to help satisfy a sweet tooth without sending blood sugar levels too high or adding unnecessary calories.
- Change recipes. Keep a grip on seasonal calories by extra healthy eating in-between the holiday eating events. If desired, minor modifications of traditional holiday dishes makes the season healthier for the entire family. Consider fat-free or light sour cream in recipes or as a garnish. Try steaming vegetables rather than cooking in butter. Reduce sugar by half in dessert recipes.
- Monitor kids’ access to food. Help a child resist temptation and overeating by encouraging them to eat small snacks throughout the day so they don’t feel hungry. Select foods carefully and don’t eat at the buffet table. Start the day with a small meal that includes whole grains, fruits, dairy foods and protein.
- Plan active family events. Spend some holiday together time with active outings such as hiking or sledding, visits to the zoo or museums, trying out an indoor rock climbing wall, visiting an indoor pool together or going skating. If you don’t have time for a big outing, just go outside together to play games like tag, jump rope or build a snowman. Park your car and walk neighborhoods or downtown to see holiday decorations.
- Buy gifts that promote being active. Include at least one gift for each child that will help them enjoy being active, such as a new bike, skates, or balls. A gift for the whole family, like a badminton set or snow skis, can create a new opportunity for everyone to enjoy the double benefits of play and physical activity. Remember to purchase safety equipment such as helmets or knee pads as well if recommended.
About our expert Rachel Riddiford, MS, RD, LD.
Rachel has been an employee of Dayton Children’s since 2004. She is currently the Manager of Clinical Dietetics and works as an eating disorder specialist in the Nutrition Clinic. Rachel completed her BS in Dietetics at Western Michigan University, Master’s degree at University of Dayton, and dietetic internship at Indiana University/Purdue University. She has also completed an American Dietetic Association Pediatric and Adolescent Weight Management Certificate.