Freshly baked pies, holiday cookies, hot chocolate, and candy canes are common holiday treats. But just as adults pack on the pounds around the holidays, so can the kids. Denying a child from partaking in sugary confections may seem simple enough, but that’s easier said than done. It’s better to teach your child moderation and how to make healthy choices, suggests Dr. Dyan Hes, Medical Director of Gramercy Pediatrics. Here you'll find the doctor's advice to parents on allowing children a little indulgence while maintaining a healthy diet during the holiday season.
“I believe in moderation, not stringent restriction, which can create an unhealthy relationship with food,” says Dr. Hes. “I specialize in childhood obesity and while I don’t condone binging on desserts and candy, I also don’t recommend denying your child treats during the holidays. Instead, limit how much your child consumes.”
Dr. Hes offers some tips to help make the holidays a bit healthier for your children and even for parents:
1. Teach your child portion control when choosing from the dessert table.
“Often there are multiple desserts on the holiday dinner table. Allowing your child to choose their favorite not only gives them a sense of freedom in their food choices, but it also teaches portion control and limitations,” recommends Dr. Hes. If your child wants to taste several desserts, then give them a small taste of each one to equal one serving. “If a child is completely denied a dessert, it will only make them want it more.”
2. Keep sugary drinks to a minimum.
The holidays are the perfect time to break out the sparkling cider and hot cocoa. But just as adults need to watch their consumption of highly caloric beverages, so should kids. A 12oz hot chocolate with whipped cream can have up to 400 calories and about 40 grams of sugar! Dr. Hes recommends keeping an eye on how many “holiday beverages” your child is consuming during meals and parties. “Make hot chocolate from low sugar instant mixes and use reduced fat (light) whipped cream or skip it entirely,” says Dr. Hes. “There is also a ton of sugar in fruit juice, and although sparkling cider is fun, limit your child to one glass to celebrate.”
3. Lead by example.
Children learn eating habits from their parents. Don’t use the holidays as an excuse to overindulge, but as another touch point to teach kids healthier eating habits. If you are piling up on desserts, your child will think it is acceptable. Make sure to load your plates with lots of veggies during dinner and limit the sweets to one after the meal.
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