Family-Friendly Healthy Eating Tips (Holiday Edition)
Helping our children develop healthy eating habits is one of the most important things that we can do as parents and caregivers. Studies show us that the habits and opinions around food formed at a young age last into adulthood and shape the choices that are made as adults. With so many diet-related diseases that our society faces today, it’s imperative that we do our part to help our children make healthy food choices and develop a positive feeling around preparing and engaging with their food.
As a mother myself, I know that the holiday season can be one of the hardest times to help our children make good food choices (heck, we struggle as adults, too, with all of the yummy, sugary treats that abound). It seems like every time we turn around there is another sweet, food coloring-laden treat just waiting to send our kids into a sugar high tailspin. So what are some ways we can foster those healthy eating choices while still enjoying the holidays without feeling like a stick in the mud?
Here are a few simple tips to help find that balance….
#1 Stick to a Healthy Eating Schedule
One of the most important things you can do to help your child (and you, too!) make healthy food choices throughout the holiday season is to stick to a healthy eating schedule. We are more likely to opt for extra helpings of dessert if we skip a healthy breakfast or healthy lunch. Before the holidays roll in, get your kids on a solid eating schedule – three healthy meals and several healthy snacks throughout the day – and stick to it! If you make sure to eat on a schedule, you’ll be more prepared to keep healthy boundaries when it comes to sweets and treats!
#2 Model Your Own Healthy Choices
Just like with everything else that we want our children to learn – reading, conflict resolution, new concepts, etc. – modeling is key! If our children see us choosing a snack of veggies and hummus over a second helping of cake or cookies, it will help them tremendously in making their own positive food choices. Be mindful of how often you’re being watched when you’re making food choices, and talk aloud about the thoughts that you’re having and the choices you’re making. Having that internal conversation out loud does wonders to model our decision-making process for kids.
#3 Bring the Kids into the Kitchen
Nothing is as powerful for helping your children make healthy food choices than letting them be a part of the cooking/preparing process! Inviting your children into the kitchen to cook meals, prepare snacks, and even to bake sweet treats helps them make decisions about what ingredients are good choices. Try turning some of the more traditional holiday treats into healthier versions! If you need some ideas for bringing kids into the kitchen, check out this free Cooking With Children resource!
#4 Keep Food Diaries for Good Visualization
Create a diary with your child to track the foods you’re eating each day and have conversations about the choices that were made! This is a wonderful way for your child to visualize the big picture of how the small choices they make each day combine together to make up their daily diet. For young children, draw pictures of the meals and snacks and treats they have each day – a poster on the wall or fridge is a great place to keep the visual easy to reference. Older children can write down their choices in a diary or journal. Reflect together daily and weekly about what your child has eaten and see how they feel about their choices – making decisions together about what they could change to feel better!
#5 Include Your Kids in the Decision Making
Understanding and having decision-making power is so important for children, especially young ones who want to feel like they have some control over their life. Spend time talking with your children about what it means to make healthy food choices – sort the foods in your home into healthy choices vs unhealthy choices. Talk about balance – how many healthy meals you should eat each day vs how many special treats. Give your children the power to make their own decisions occasionally and reflect on how they feel about their choice later.
Above all, remember that balance is key! It’s perfectly ok to have fun and enjoy the treats that come along with the holiday season, as long as you’re enjoying healthy meals throughout the day as well. Happy Holidays!
About the Author:
Leah McDermott is a former Master Educator turned homeschooling mother of two. Through her business Your Natural Learner, she helps families and educators provide meaningful, natural learning experiences for their children through her courses, curriculum, ebooks, and communities. When not sharing awesome ideas and activities with her community, she can be found exploring the great outdoors with her husband, two sons, and plenty of animals.
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