The holidays often lead to overindulgence, and not just for adults! Too much sugar and junk can lead to a whole host of unpleasant side-effects for our kids, including mood swings, exhaustion, tantrums, belly aches, and lowered immunity. To make matters worse, our children’s regular physical activities are often suspended for the holidays and replaced by more sedentary time spent visiting and traveling. Topping it all off, family sleep patterns are usually disrupted by travel and late nights of celebration.
Keeping things fun, festive and healthy over the holidays is a great way to ensure your family’s energy, immunity and spirits stay high! Here are a few great tips to help you keep your family a little healthier over the holidays:
- Discuss the concept of moderation in advance of parties and gatherings, or busy days of visiting, and teach your kids how to say no politely. In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with letting your kids’ know the effects of over-indulging in junk — in fact there’s a lot right about it. Our kids are smart — they don’t want to feel yucky, have bellyaches, or get sick and tired. They want to feel great and enjoy time with their special friends and relatives. On a day where your family will be eating mostly out of your home, let them know it’s ok to say no to family members & friends who might be “over offering”. Give them the express language to make it easier: “No thanks, Grandma. I’ve already had some thanks.”
- Remind them that there will be more treats at the next party or visit, so there’s no need to gorge. Emphasize that most holiday foods aren’t really that special or unique, and will be available as treats again throughout the year (and probably even again during this season!).
- Bring a kid-friendly healthy dish every time your family visits, so there’s a healthy alternative to balance out the sweets and treats. One of my favourites is a tray of these easy candy-cane apples with my Caramelly Apple Dip: http://www.simple-balance.ca/2012/10/caramelly-apple-dip/
- Don’t forget about sleep! Late nights and excitement are OK once in a while, but a string of them in a row will lead to cranky, and even sick, kids. Look at your schedule and incorporate some planned “early nights”. On nights you are home with the kids in bed early, throw a healthy recipe together for use on one of your busier nights to come.
- Exercise boosts immunity, improves mood, and burns off excess energy. Include regular physical activity as a family into your days, whether it’s walking the dog, tobogganing, a trip to the rink or pool, or a game of street hockey. Let your kids come up with fun ideas, maybe they’ll even become traditions.
- If part of your holiday traditions include involving your kids in the kitchen with baking & treat-making, consider getting them involved in some healthy recipes as well. Make a big batch of veggie chili (http://www.simple-balance.ca/2012/02/simple-veggie-chili-yum/) or a winter salad with them (http://www.simple-balance.ca/2012/01/roasted-veggie-warm-kale-salad/), and let them proudly take it to the next potluck as their personal contribution. With pride comes ownership, and in my experience, with ownership comes a healthy appetite!
Wishing you and your family a Happy Healthy Holiday!