It’s the most wonderful time of the year! For some, but not all, in fact during this time of the year there are usually glimpses of wonderfulness but the time in between can be made up of stress, over committing and overeating. This is not just the adults, it can happen to our children too. We all need to slow down and make better choices in life and particularly with our food. Getting our kids to ‘eat right‘ during the best of times is difficult enough but during the festive season, it can almost be mission impossible!
The following are a few things I do, as a mother of 2 teenage boys, and a nutritionist to help ensure the holiday season doesn’t become an overindulgent one.
My first piece of advice to every parent out there whether it’s the festive season or not, when attending a party or a playdate, do not restrict your son or daughter from the goodies. The word ‘no’ to a child when it comes to food, means they have lost control and they need to win it back by eating exactly what you told them not to. Never allowing your children any sweets is impossible, it’s not going to work. Trust me, I have tried. When you are at a party let them choose 2 or 3 sweets, anything they want. (unless they are allergic of course). This gives children a bit of control and they don’t feel the need to pick up the sweets they aren’t allowed, the minute you turn your back! Regulation is key when it comes to children and food. It is the one thing that small children can refuse or indulge in, and as parents it’s the one area we feel can get the most out of control.
Good vs Bad foods.
Next, it’s important not to refer to foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. Your best bet is to call the treats ‘sometimes’ food and, of course, allow them sometimes. It is important to not use treats as a bribe. ‘If you eat all your vegetables, you can have dessert at the party’ is not going to work. Making a plan of when ‘sometimes foods’ are allowed is better. Talk to your child about food and how it is linked to how their body feels. As a parent, we must remain calm at all times! The minute our children see us upset they feel they have won our attention, and can’t wait to do it again. So, if your child is at a Christmas party and proceeds to eat 4 cupcakes, 3 bags of popcorn, and 5 candy canes, don’t react, the damage has been done, just breathe. Later, when all has been digested (your anger and their food) then you approach the subject calmly and wisely. Use it to educate your child in ‘sometimes foods’. As a family come up with when ‘sometimes’ food should be eaten and how much. If you can turn it into a routine or habit that the child has a say in, it will all come naturally without much argument.
Finally, and my biggest piece of advice is to keep sweets out of the house. Make sure there are copious amounts of veggies and fruits for your child to snack on when they are at home. Have them cut up and sitting right inside the refrigerator so when your children open the door it’s the first thing they see. Also, baking healthy homemade treats together to have on hand is a great idea. Keeping healthy energy bites in the fridge for after dinner or in between meals keeps everyone happy. Clear out the ‘sometimes’ foods and bring in the healthy ones. Sugar addiction is a real thing, and the best way to curb it is by only keeping good food at home. If you are a household that has lots of ‘sometimes’ foods in your cupboards, start by slowly cutting back on buying sweets. Don’t get rid of it all at once, it’s unfair and can cause a lot of misery for the children and you.
Teaching our children to eat well is a constant and ongoing battle and around the holidays it can be more prevalent because of all festive parties and playdates. But my strongest piece of advice to you is that food should not be a battle, it should be an education and remaining calm and relaxed around food is a win for both parent and child!
Tara Conrad, Nutritionist and LifeStyle Consultant, Verita Life Clinic, www.veritalife.com