During the holiday season, it’s likely you and your family will be attending numerous holiday parties and possibly even hosting one. So how can you make the festivities a little healthier for your children? Children’s National Health System’s dietitian, Megan Barna, MS, RD, LD, offers some advice for parents.
While it’s important to make sure the holiday festivities are fun for the whole family, Barna offers 10 tips to ensure children have a healthier experience at holiday festivities.
- Bring healthier snacks. If you’re going to someone else’s house, try a recipe that incorporates fruits and vegetables with a low-fat dip, make homemade pizzas on whole wheat, or bring a fruit salad with a yogurt dip.
- Incorporate healthier substitutes. Find ways to swap out ingredients in holiday recipes for healthier alternatives to lower the amounts of fat, added sugar, and calories children consume.
- Make healthy drinks easy to grab. Barna recommended that parents make sure water is easy to grab for children. To make the healthier options a little more appealing to children, Barna said parents could make some fun ice cubes out of 100 percent fruit juice or offer seltzer water.
- Don’t bring ravenous children. Never take children to a holiday party on an empty stomach because it leads to less self-control and more overeating on empty calories. Parents should aim to keep children on a regular schedule with three meals a day and healthy snacks.
- Involve kids in the preparation. Barna said parents can involve children in the holiday food preparation as early as their toddler years. “It’s always a good idea to involve your kids in food preparation, but remember to make it appropriate for their skills and age levels,” Barna said.
- Be a healthy role-model. Show your children that you eat a variety of foods and monitor your own portion sizes at holiday celebrations. “Families and parents are the number one role models for these behaviors,” Barna said.
- Shift the festivities’ focus. Make the holiday festivities more about enjoying family, traditions, and activities, rather than the food.
- Encourage kids to get moving. Barna emphasized that exercise is even more important during the holiday season and recommended that children get an hour a day, every day. “Try to balance out some of the increased treats with increased activity,” Barna said.
- Keep sleep schedules consistent. With all the holiday excitement, it can be difficult for children to unwind from the festivities and get a good night’s rest. Barna recommend that parents stick to their child’s regular bedtime schedule as often as possible. Learn more about how much sleep kids need.
- Reinforce regular hand washing. To help keep children from spreading germs or contracting an illness at the holiday celebrations, Barna recommended children regularly wash their hands. Children should wash their hands for 30 seconds or have them sing happy birthday twice while washing and then dry with a clean towel.
Barna recommended that parents not only think of maintaining a healthy diet through the holidays for children, but rather for the whole family. She said a healthier holiday party for everyone will trickle down to the children.
“When parents encourage and role-model healthy habits at home it helps make the healthy choice the easy choice,” Barna said.Helpful links