Okay folks, it’s that wonderful time of year again! Parties and delicious dinners with friends and family are just around the corner. Unfortunately, all this holiday cheer also means your kids will be grabbing handfuls of festive candy from Aunt Sharon’s coffee table, or waiting until the adults are busy before sneaking treats off the dessert trays piled high with cookies and squares and other delectable goodies.
Don’t worry, I’m not here to say you can’t let your kid (or yourself!) enjoy some sugary goodness. I’m all for letting yourself indulge a little; the holidays are about having a good time with good company, and food is a huge part of that. But I am here to say it’s smart to have some guidelines in place BEFORE you head out for a gathering where you just know there are going to be lots of sweet and delicious snacks that you wouldn’t normally allow your child.
As adults, we know we have to regulate ourselves when it comes to junk food. We have reasons to, whether we’re worried about our waistline or just worried about feeling sluggish and gross after eating too much pumpkin cheesecake or homemade fudge.
Unfortunately, kids don’t have this same obstacle standing between them and complete and total overindulgence. Some kids will literally eat themselves sick. So it’s your job as a parent (lucky you!) to make sure they get to feel like it’s s special occasion, but still prevent them from having the sugar tantrums or inevitable stomach aches.
Here are my top tips for managing treats during the holidays:
1. Plan ahead: Talk to your child about manners and explain that it is not cool to dive onto the treat table like a ravenous shark when they walk in the host’s house. Tell them what their treat limit is BEFORE you get there. Some kids will actually really enjoy this, as they get to inspect the treats and think hard about what they want most.
2. Tell them they can have as much healthy food as they want, so they don’t feel too restricted in their food choices. This might mean they go back for three helpings of mashed potatoes, but so be it. It will leave less room for desserts afterward anyway.
3. If dinner isn’t going to be served right away, feed your child before you go out. When kids are hungry they will often crave sugar, and are guaranteed to want to stuff their faces with candy canes or cookies when they get to the party. Often, these events are on “adult time” as well, which means that they might have to wait to eat until the adults are done drinking eggnog and chatting, and appetizers are not likely to be child-friendly.
4. If you can see that your child is full, but she is insisting that she hasn’t had all her treats yet, tell her to choose one and say you will wrap it up for her to take home later.
5. Set a good example. Children are very influenced by watching their parents, so if you keep hitting the mini-cheesecake tray or the chocolate fondue fountain, they are going to see this and be confused: if Mom and Dad don’t have to control their sugar cravings, how bad can the sweets really be? If the adults stick to the same philosophy of “everything in moderation,” it sets the kids up for healthy eating habits too.
Remind your kids (and yourself) that the holidays shouldn’t be about excess and over-indulging. They are about friends and family and spreading good will. With maybe just a few treats here and there. :)
Also, have you had a chance to check out The Food Sense Program? I created it with a nutritionist, and it’s designed to help even the fussiest of eaters start eating a balanced diet. If you are tired of battles around the dinner table, you will want to find out more. Best of all? It comes with a risk-free 100% satisfaction guarantee.
Here’s to a healthy, happy holiday season to you and your family!