The festivities and treats of the holiday season can make it difficult for your child to maintain healthy eating habits that he or she might have established earlier in the year. On average, people gain 1-3 pounds during the six weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. While this may seem insignificant, extra pounds can add up over time and eventually lead to health issues such as:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High triglycerides (fats traveling in the blood)
- Increase in blood sugar
- Increase in insulin levels
If your child reverts to unhealthy eating habits during the holidays, it can be challenging for him or her to get back to good food choices again in the new year. Making sure that you and your child continue to practice healthy behaviors throughout the holidays will help ensure that your family’s health stays in top shape year-round.
Tips to stay healthy during the holidays
Here are a few suggestions to help you and your child enjoy the season in a healthy way:
- Keep normal eating patterns. With school breaks, it can be easy for your child’s routine to get off-track. If your child usually eats three meals a day and snacks, try to keep that schedule consistent. Don’t eat light throughout the day to binge on favorite holiday dishes. Keeping your normal eating schedule helps keep hunger at bay and allows you time to enjoy your holiday favorites without overeating.
- Concentrate on portions. Keep portions small, eat slowly and pay attention to your body. For many, the holidays are synonymous to overindulgence. Remember to honor your fullness cues and stop eating when full, yet still feeling comfortable. If you feel like you are about to burst, you have eaten too much.
- Be sure holiday meals feature plenty of vegetables. Choosing high-fiber foods and more vegetable-based dishes can help reduce the amount of calories you consume during the holidays.
- Capitalize on the food preparation process. The holidays can be the perfect time to include your kids in the preparations of their favorite dishes. Having your kids help with the meal preparation can allow you the opportunity to teach them about healthier substitutions. For younger kids, you can have them set the table or help prepare salads.
- Take the time to organize family activity. Adding physical activity into your holiday is a good way to keep up healthy habits and enjoy quality time together as a family. Plan a post-meal walk around the neighborhood or a visit to the park.
How to make healthier versions of holiday favorites
You and your child can still enjoy holiday treats from time to time, and often, you can find healthier versions of your favorites. Consider some healthy food swaps when planning your holiday meals:
- Add several healthier options to your menu such as salad and sautéed greens beans with almonds rather than green bean casserole.
- Did you know that low-fat Greek yogurt can be a great substitute ingredient in mashed potatoes? When making mashed potatoes, use low-fat or skim milk rather than whole milk or half-and-half. You can even use low-fat Greek yogurt instead of butter milk. In addition, add some pureed cauliflower to add flavor and fiber to your dish.
- Remove some of the top crust on the apple pie to reduce your calorie and fat intake.
- Bake cored apples, stuff them with cranberry relish and top them with a dollop of whipped cream for a healthier dessert option.
The holiday season is a special time to spend with loved ones. Hopefully, these tips will help you enjoy your time together while still making your health a priority.