The holiday season is here! I love the holidays for all the sharing and cooking of delicious food, gathering with friends and family, making crafts with my girls, viewing beautiful light displays and much more. However, the holidays can be a bit overwhelming and hard to navigate with sugar around every corner. The holiday parties and cookie-making can add up quickly to a whole lot of sugar consumption.
I recently shifted my mindset from trying to control how much sugar my girls consume to using the holidays as an opportunity to teach them how to be more aware of their body and how food makes them feel. I want my girls to learn how to make decisions for themselves when I’m not around. My end goal is raising healthy young adults who have a positive relationships with food.
Here are 7 tips that I hope you find helpful in navigating the holiday season with your children.
- Help children make the connection between what they eat and how they feel. If kids choose 10 cookies from the buffet line and then don’t feel well a couple hours later, have a melt down from a sugar crash, or feel out of control from a sugar spike, help them to make the connection.
- Prior to going to a party, talk to your kids about how many treats they think would be appropriate for them to eat. This tip may be appropriate for elementary school children. I took this approach for Halloween this year for the first time. I usually tell my girls how many pieces of candy they get to eat that night, but this year, I shifted my approach and asked them how many pieces they thought would be good for them to eat. They both chose 3 pieces and were perfectly happy. Since they are coming up with the amount that feels good to them, I hope it will be easier for them to follow through. I find whenever I can give my girls more autonomy, the more successful things go.
- If your kids are little, under 2, I recommend trying to avoid treats all together. Most little ones don’t even realize what they are missing so it doesn’t feel restrictive for them. The American Pediatric Association recommends zero added sugar until 2 years of age. Sugar will have more of a negative impact on their little bodies.
- When you do go to holiday parties, feed your children dinner ahead of time. Load them up with veggies, a clean protein, and a healthy fat. This way, they will be less apt to snack and fill up on all the desserts. When they do have dessert, their blood sugar will be less likely to spike as high due to the protein, fat, and fiber from their dinner.
- Teach children that excess amounts of sugar lowers their immune system, making them more likely to catch a cold. When my girls do get sick, we stick to just sugar from fruit and avoid the added sugar to help heal their bodies quicker. Seventy percent of our immune system lives in our gut. Sugar fuels the bad bacteria in our gut just like fiber helps feed the good bacteria. The more we can feed the good bacteria in the gut with a variety of fruits and veggies, the stronger our immune system will be. Helping children to make this connection about sugar and taking care of our bodies hopefully will help their decision-making in the future.
- When you are at home, focus on whole foods and minimize added sugar since they will most likely be consuming plenty of sugar elsewhere. If you are going to a holiday party in the evening, serve a savory breakfast that morning and save the pancakes with maple syrup for another day.
- If your family wants a sweet treat at home or would like to bring a dessert to a party, consider making a healthy dessert to share with family and friends. There are so many delicious options out there that are free of processed sugar, are only lightly sweetened, and may even have added veggies like Chocolate Zucchini Cookies or have added beans like Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies. If you are looking for ideas or want your child to get more involved in the kitchen, consider signing up for my virtual kids cooking classes. All the recipes we make together are gluten free, lightly sweetened, and have an added ingredient like veggies or beans. I love showing families that desserts can be delicious and nutritious. My next two holiday classes are Tuesday, November 23rd and Tuesday, December 14th. Please sign up here if you and your children are interested in participating for the November class. The December sign ups will be posted after Thanksgiving. Hope to see you and your family in the kitchen soon where we can create, have fun, and try new foods together.
Cheers to a healthy, fun, and balanced holiday season!