Dec 19, 2016, 12:00:00 AM CST Nov 30, 2023, 1:24:44 PM CST

How to encourage healthy eating habits during the holidays

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

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 they might have established throughout 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 them 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 pattern

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. Maintaining your regular 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 with 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. Talk to your kids about what it feels like to “be full” and listen to your body’s cues, so they don’t overeat and become uncomfortable. 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. Try lighter preparations, such as those that are grilled or baked.

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 the 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.

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