The holiday season is fast approaching and for families this often means busy schedules with numerous parties and celebrations. In order to maintain a healthy holiday diet and not get carried away with all the festive foods, check out these 6 tips to keep kids healthy over the holiday season.
1. Stick to an eating schedule for healthy holidays
While it’s normal for there to be some deviation (and relaxation) to your child’s schedule during the holidays, it’s important to try and stick to their usual eating routine as much as possible.
Scheduling meals and snacks not only helps children develop a healthy relationship with food, it also provides children with a sense of security. Knowing that they’ll have another opportunity to eat soon can help to improve their appetite at meal times.
Aim to keep meals and snacks scheduled around the same time each day, but don’t stress if it’s not exact. Most young children need three main meals per day, with healthy snacks in between. We usually recommend scheduling snacks to ensure children eat every 2-3 hours.
2. Involve your kids in the kitchen
A great way to occupy your child over the holiday break is to get them busy in the kitchen with you. Most children love spending this time with their parents. Getting them involved in the kitchen allows them to learn about different foods and builds skills that they will likely take into adulthood. It can also create greater interest and curiosity in trying new foods, leading to experimentation with the things they have created.
Ways to involve your kids in the kitchen:
- Get them to pick a healthy recipe
- Involve them in cooking with age appropriate tasks ie mixing and stirring
- Help read out recipes
- Talk about food
- Setting the table
3. Don’t forget the veggies
Vegetables might not be the first food that comes to mind when you think of the festive season (…hello roast turkey and Christmas pudding!), however, they should be. With only 20% of Australian kids actually eating enough vegetables, it’s so important to focus on getting in as many as possible over the holiday break.
Ways to get kids to eat more veggies:
- Offer vegetables as snacks e.g. vegetable based dip
- If you’re eating at a restaurant, incorporate vegetables by ordering some vegetable-based sides
- Add finely diced carrot and zucchini to your child’s favourite meals e.g. spaghetti bolognese, vegetable pizzas
- Add a small handful of spinach into breakfast smoothies
- Provide a variety of different coloured/ textured vegetables for your child to try
- Experimenting with different hot/ cold/ cooked/ raw vegetables can also help
4. Keep healthy holiday snacks on hand
Children get hungry in between meals. However, many packaged snacks are not the best option as they can be full of added sugars, unhealthy fats and artificial ingredients. Snack time is a great opportunity to sneak in some extra nutrients into your child’s diet.
Keeping healthy snacks readily available is a great way to ensure you always have nutrient rich snack options to offer your child.
Here are some of our favourites:
- Edamame beans
- Apple with peanut butter
- Hummus and veggie sticks
- Hard boiled egg
5. Be a healthy role model
As a parent, you play an important role in shaping your child’s eating habits and relationship with food. Spending more time with your child at home over the holidays makes it a fantastic opportunity to role model healthy eating behaviours.
If you eat healthy foods regularly, your child is more likely to eat healthy foods too.
Make time to prepare balanced, healthy meals and take the time to sit and eat with your children. By setting a good example, your child will learn the importance of a healthy diet!
6. Allow treats in moderation
The holiday season usually goes hand in hand with an increase in treat foods in kids diets. While a small amount of these treat foods are fine, going way overboard can become problematic.
To achieve a moderate approach when it comes to treats, you might like to consider the 80/20 approach during the holidays.
80% of the time – Encourage your child to be eating nutritious, wholesome foods that promote growth, development and overall wellbeing. Think along the lines of veggies, fruit, whole grains, legumes, healthy oils, nuts, dairy, lean meats, eggs and fish.
20% of the time – Allow your child to eat some of those fun foods they enjoy. Fun foods contain fewer nutrients and are not needed for growth and development. Setting a guideline around fun foods is really important, especially over the holiday season when they are often more abundant. Be mindful to not label these as ‘bad’ foods to be feared as this doesn’t promote long term healthy habits. Instead, adopt a flexible, positive approach that allows your kids to indulge occasionally.
Remember, the most important thing is not to make your child feel guilty about enjoying the foods they love, but instead, learn to appreciate them in moderation!
- This article was written for our nutrition partners at Only About Children.
- See our kid-friendly recipes here.