Tips for Healthy Eating Over the Holiday Season

Holiday treats: Advice healthy eating

‘Tis the season for sweetness! How to stay healthy and still enjoy holiday treats

The holiday season is upon us and there are suddenly treats everywhere!  We don’t want December to turn into a month-long sugar-fueled frenzy, but we also don’t want our kids to think we are the Grinch that stole the candy.

How can we enjoy the holidays as a family, and stay happy and healthy while we do it? Don’t worry! I’ll share my 5 top tips to get you through the holiday season without the sugar overload.

Tips for avoiding holiday treat overload

Take one: Over the holidays you may be invited to parties or you may be hosting a big dinner at your home. Everyone knows that feeling of going from ‘happy full’ to ‘now, I feel sick’. To keep it healthy try my ‘take one’ strategy.

If it is a party with lots of nibbles, cookies, candies, chips and dips; take just one plate, and chose whatever you want to eat. When that plate is done, you are done. This will help you to focus on selecting foods that are your favourites and savouring them, instead of mindlessly continuing to dip into the candy bowl until it is empty.

Similarly, if it is a sit-down dinner, one portion is enough. I know you think you want seconds, but how are you going to feel after? Concentrate on enjoying the meal, and not stuffing yourself! Talk to your kids about the ‘take one’ strategy, it is an easy one to remember!

Talk about it: Take the time to discuss healthy, happy eating with your children. Rather than having a bunch of rules and that you implement, try to talk to them about why healthy eating is important and also how family food traditions are a special part of the holidays.

Get your kids to make a mind-body connection by asking them to recall how they have felt in the past if they ate too many treats, and ask them which food gives them the most energy and make them feel good. They may surprise you with their insights and ideas!  It is always healthy to explore how food makes us feel to better understand our own bodies and how to nourish ourselves; mind, body and spirit. The holidays are a wonderful time to start developing a more mindful eating practice, for ourselves and our children.

Sometimes the going gets tough and there are treats EVERYWHERE.  I find the best way to say “no” to the kids when they have had enough, is letting them know that if they are still hungry, there are plenty of fruit and veggies available, but the treats are finished for the day.

That way, you are still providing an option, but it is a healthier one. Also, you are reminding them that there will be an opportunity for a treat tomorrow.

Ways to make holiday treats healthier

Kids in the kitchen: It is never too early to get your kids in the kitchen and start teaching them all of your family favourite holiday recipes. Home-baked goodies are almost always healthier than the store-bought, more processed treats. Plus, what you make at home, you make with love, and that is important too!

You might even want to explore updating your favourite desserts with healthier swaps like using date paste in place of some of the sugar, avocado, cashews or apple sauce in place of some of the butter or oil and adding a little ground flax into your baking. You can find lots of great healthier dessert recipes with a quick search online.. Other healthier holidays foods include popcorn, clementines, nuts and roasted chestnuts.

Get active

Get out and enjoy the winter wonderland: Not all holiday traditions need to involve food. Try getting outside everyday to enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings we have in winter.

Go to a park for a nature walk, try skating at your local rink and build a snowman if you’ve got the snow! Spending time together as a family outside is one of the best things you can do over the holidays for your physical and mental health, and it might just stop the kids from squabbling for a little while!  Here are some additional holiday stress-buster ideas that I’ve shared before for parents, students and teachers.

You’ve gotta walk the talk: Parents, whatever you do over the holiday season, remember your kids are watching you, and your actions speak louder than words. If you tell your kids they can’t have a second dessert, and then you dig into another piece of cake while cleaning up the kitchen, they will notice – trust me!

Your kids pick up on your relationship with food and your body, and so it is so important to love yourself, have compassion for yourself, and make healthy food and activity choices. You will feel better, and your kids will learn life-long lessons in how to be healthy, look after themselves, and how to have a really great holiday!

 

Dr. Pamela Fergusson, RD

Pamela Fergusson is a Registered Dietician with a PhD in nutrition with a private practice in Toronto. She brings a love of nutrition, wellness and fitness to her blogging. She loves to cook and bake with her four children, teach them about food and nutrition through shopping for and preparing colourful, healthy family meals together. Pamela is also a runner and speed walker and has completed six half and full marathons.

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