Visions of Sugarplums: Navigate Holiday Eating with Your Child

Published: December 10, 2014

In our culture, one can hardly think about the holidays without calling to mind the sweets and treats associated with the season. Just this week, I was decorating my own home. At the bottom of the “Decorations Box,” I pulled out one of our most cherished holiday decorations: The Gum Drop Tree. It’s a delightful little plastic tree with pointed branches that, when decorated, glitters beautifully with enticing, sugary gumdrops. Looking at it immediately takes me straight back to my grandmother’s living room, with six little grandchildren watering at the mouth, gazing gleefully at the tree, and asking any adult in view, “Please, can I have another gumdrop?!”

For parents, this type of scene may sound familiar. Between school parties and family celebrations, the holiday season is kid-focused, and it brings an inundation of goodies. Alas, striking a balance between cherishing the joy and tradition of the season while maintaining balance and health can prove difficult! Here are our tips for helping you and your child navigate eating during the holidays in a healthy and happy way.

  1. Provide healthy, kid-friendly food options. My 6-year-old self still makes a face thinking about my uncle’s asparagus casserole… yuck! Parents can set the stage for success by ensuring that during the holiday festivities, their child has access to foods that are familiar, likable, and nourishing. Fruit and veggies can also be displayed in fun holiday ways:
  1. Out of sight, out of mind. My grandmother’s greatest mistake with our Gumdrop Tree was that it was left out in the open. Who could blame a kid for asking for just one more when it was right there?! Indeed, kids (and adults!) are more likely to be tempted to overeat when tasty foods are left in plain view. As much as possible, make sure that holiday sweets stay just a treat by putting them away when it’s not time to eat.
  1. Try to prevent boredom. Some kids are more likely to overeat when they’re bored. Whether at home or on the road, make sure to think ahead and provide your child with a variety of kid- or family-friendly activities. The holidays are a hectic time and it’s easy to be distracted by the long list of to-do’s to get ready for all of the festivities. Help stave off boredom by getting the kids involved in the preparation. Can they string popcorn garlands? Make New Years cards for friends and family?
  1. Don’t forget: You’re still the parent! Just like picking up toys or doing homework, eating is a behavior, and it’s okay to say, “No”! Even though we often bend family rules during the holiday season, adult and child tummies alike still need moderation. When you decide to set a limit around eating for your child, avoid labeling foods as “good or bad” or discussing weight. Instead, focus your responses on keeping energy up and maintaining health.

Happy Holidays from all of us at CEED!

photo credit: mkreul via Creative Commons