When I think about Christmas in years past, many of my memories involve food. Baking with my Mom, devouring homemade cinnamon buns on Christmas morning and sipping hot chocolate (which has been replaced with baileys and coffee) after playing outside in the snow.
No matter what your holiday traditions are, food is always a huge part of the celebration. That is why I think it's important to put all weight loss goals on hold, give yourself a break and enjoy holiday foods without feeling guilty. I also think that it's important, as parents, to let our kids enjoy holiday foods too — without being monitored 24/7 by Mom or Dad.
All year long we work hard to ensure that our kids eat a fairly well balanced diet, enough vegetables and not too many treats. What if, instead of rationing our kids treats and making sure that they get enough brussel sprouts, we backed right off for two or three days and let our kids explore, taste and even go a little crazy on the foods of their choosing? Avoiding potential "food fights" during the holidays might just make things a little more fun and a lot less stressful for everyone. Here are some suggestions on how to do this:
If there is one meal that should be non-negotiable, it's breakfast. Kids are hungry in the morning, so it's a great opportunity to take advantage of their rumbly tummies and feed them a balanced meal. We know that eating breakfast offers a wide range of benefits, but when protein (think yogurt, milk, nuts, meat, eggs etc.) is included, it can tame the cookie monster later in the day by helping to control appetite and blood sugar levels.
Without completely disregarding the time — after all, you don't want your preschooler to throw a huge tantrum because he hasn't eaten in 5 hours — try to be flexible when it comes to the timing of meals and snacks during the holidays. Holiday meals are often served either earlier or later (depending on your family or the host) than regular weeknight meals and there is also typically a lot more snacking during the day. With the exception of breakfast, don't worry too much if your kids don't have balanced healthy meals during the day — holiday eating is random and fun and everyone (including kids) should enjoy it.
At holiday parties and family gatherings, there will be platters of delicious foods that everyone is going to want to try (including your kids). Let them explore different foods by guiding them through the buffet of deliciousness and allowing them to choose what they would like to try (not what you want them to eat). Try not to steer them towards decisions, but instead give them full control over what goes on their plate. There are only a few opportunities for young kids to have full control over what they eat during the year, and holiday time should be one of them. Allowing your kids to explore different foods that aren't offered at home on a regular basis will help to widen their palate and give them a sense of control and confidence when it comes to their meal, which will increase the chances of them actually eating it!
Instead of stressing about what and how much your child is eating, turn a blind eye. That's right — let it go. Indulging more than usual over these holidays — which really only accounts for about 1-3% of the year — is fun and normal and does not mean that your kids will develop unhealthy eating habits for life. In fact, if you try to control everything that your child eats, he or she will likely overindulge when they get the chance and new, longer lasting food battles may arise. Think about how much more time you will have to enjoy yourself and focus on what's important during the holidays instead of wasting it on monitoring every morsel that enters your kids' mouths.
Instead of fighting with your kids to sit down to the table to eat dinner, let them know that they don't have to eat if they don't want to (after all, they have likely filled up on yummy snacks all afternoon with their siblings, friends or cousins) but that they do need to sit down at the table with everyone to visit, laugh and catch up. When you take the pressure off of kids to eat, they are often more open to trying foods and less "picky" with their choices. You may be surprised at how much your kids end up eating, and even if they don't, it's OK. You will enjoy yourself so much more if you resist telling them to have "3 more bites" and focus instead on creating happy holiday memories.
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