How to encourage healthy eating habits during the holidays
Dec 19, 2016, 12:00:00 AM CST Dec 31, 2018, 9:44:18 AM CST

How to encourage healthy eating habits during the holidays

Support your family's nutrition goals by choosing healthy options during the holidays

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little girl sitting at family holiday dinner table little girl sitting at family holiday dinner table

The festivities and treats of the holiday season can make it difficult for your child to maintain good 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:

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 maintain healthy eating habits during the holidays

Here are a few suggestions to help you and your child enjoy the season in a healthy way:

1. Keep normal eating patterns 

During 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. Do not 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.

2. 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. See more ways to avoid overeating.

3. Offer plenty of vegetables with holiday meals

Choosing high-fiber foods and more vegetable-based dishes can help reduce the number of calories you consume during the holidays.

4. 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 kids help with meal preparation can teach them about healthier substitutions. For younger kids, you can have them set the table or help prepare salads.

5. 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 buttermilk. In addition, include 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.  

Learn more

Want to learn more about healthier habits for your family? Read more about pediatric weight management programs that include Get Up & Go, COACH, bariatrics and nutrition clinics.

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