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But if you have kids, you know that it can be easy for them to get carried away with foods loaded with sugar. Refined flours, sugar, unhealthy fats can negatively affect your child's health and energy levels, which is why it's important to teach them how to make healthy choices regardless of what's on the holiday table.
This winter season, try these five tips for encouraging your family members and kids to eat healthy during the holidays.
Fill their plates with protein, healthy fats, and colorful produce.The same guidelines for a healthy plate still apply to the holidays. Lean proteins, like chicken or fish, help our bodies function at their best. And, healthy fats, like avocados and olive oil, give us the energy we need without the crash that comes from refined carbohydrates, like mashed potatoes.
There is an abundance of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables in season over the winter that add color to our plate and unique health benefits to our bodies.
Challenge your kids to eat the rainbow every day—or as much color as possible. Foods that are naturally colorful are filled with vitamins and fiber, which helps regulate a healthy gut and can reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases and chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Encourage your kids to limit white foods, which tend to offer little nutrition. Rice, potatoes, pasta, bread, and other starchy foods spike blood sugar, causing mood and energy to fluctuate.
Limit added sugars by making naturally sweet foods enticing.
Added sugar found in favorite holiday treats, like sugar cookies or pecan pie, contributes to hyperactivity and mood disorders. Instead, try recipes with sweet potatoes, carrots, and other foods that are naturally sweet. Or, consider adding cinnamon which adds a sweet flavor to any food.
While it's okay to indulge over the holidays within reason, too much sugar can affect your child's sleep quality and significantly increase their calorie intake. Consider lowering the amount of sugar added to sweet treats or swapping out ingredients for those that are naturally sweet, like fruit. Frozen fruit popsicles, fruit kabobs, or creative fruit desserts, can entice kids for dessert. Just setting out a variety of fruit where your family can easily see it and grab it increases the likelihood that they'll reach for something healthy during the holidays when they feel hungry.
Try this: Thinly slice strawberries and add a dab of whipped cream along the bottom edges to make festive and tasty Santa hats.
Consider portion sizes and remember, "everything in moderation."
Healthy eating doesn't demand that you completely eliminate fatty or sugary foods from your diet over the holidays. Instead, enjoy indulging in a few favorite dishes and treats while being mindful of how much you're eating. Typically, portion sizes are smaller than the size of your palm (relative to each of your family members). If you're having a sweet treat, the portion size may be smaller.
Encouraging your family to fill up their plate with smaller portions allows them to try a variety of enjoyable foods that they may not get other times of the year without overdoing it. Kid plates often come with dividers that encourage both appropriate portion sizes and variety. Make balanced choices by filling up on the good-for-you foods first and eating "fun foods" every once in a while without associating them with any guilt.
Involve your kids in the holiday meal prep.
Eating healthy can be easy when there are tasty and nutritious choices readily available. One way to create more interest in eating healthy is by getting your kids involved in the kitchen. They can choose a new healthy dish to make or learn a family recipe, like grandma's famous green bean casserole, which gives them an opportunity to learn about the ingredients going into all the food. If your kids are little, try to shed the anxiety about the mess and invite them to join in on mixing, stirring, or setting the table.
Maintain a normal eating schedule.
It can be tempting for your family to think they need to skip meals and "save up" calories before a holiday party or large family gathering. Doing so will only lead to overeating later on and slower metabolisms over time. Regular meal schedules keep your family filled with nutrients that leave them feeling satisfied and energized. Kids get hungry between meals, so having healthy snack options on hand and accessible can ensure they don't grab processed junk when their stomach rumbles.
Model nutritious choices in your own eating habits.
If we want our families to eat healthy during the holidays, it's important that we serve as role models by doing it ourselves. As much as we expect kids to do what we say, they're more likely to "do what we do." Whether they're conscious of it or not, our children are watching what we do at the dinner table and in between meals. If we want our kids to choose healthy eating when faced with tempting treats, the best way we can encourage them to do so is by making nutritious choices ourselves. This holiday season, try to set a healthy example for your family by taking a balanced approach that involves filling yourself with nutritious, colorful foods while allowing room to indulge in the occasional slice of pumpkin pie or an extra helping of mashed potatoes. Your family will likely do the same!