With Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and National Fritter Day standing between now and the end of the year, I’m betting we’re all in for lots of celebrations. This time of year is wonderful for gatherings with family and friends but not so great for steering clear of high-sugar dessert tables. While delighting in seasonal treats might seem fun at the time, increased sugar often leads to undesirable behaviors and weakened immune systems. With that in mind, here are some things our family does before we face the Sugarplum Fairies.
Talk about it.
Kids often see a buffet table as a free-for-all smorgasbord with no limitations. It’s at a perfect height for serving themselves and they don’t mind if they do. It took me a few times of seeing plates piled high with cookies to realize that I needed to explain appropriate buffet/party food behavior if I expected my kids to make good choices. Now, prior to a gathering, we talk about how there will be a lot of delicious desserts but we need to pick only one or two treats for the evening. After that, no asking, no sneaking. Going in with our expectations set firmly has helped tremendously, and I’ve found it helpful to let the kids choose which treats they’ll have. It gives them a sense of autonomy that makes working with our expectations easier.
Fill up on good stuff throughout the day.
When we know we’re heading to a gathering, I offer lots of healthy food options throughout the day so no one is heading into the event with an empty stomach. If the kids are full of healthy fats and proteins, they’re less likely to binge on snowman cut-outs.
Most gatherings have juice boxes available for kids. Because I’m not trying to be Scrooge and because we drink juice so rarely at home, the kids are allowed to have one juice box. But before we leave the house, I make sure everyone has a water bottle and we take those with us. When the juice is gone, they drink water from their water bottles. They don’t have to bother anyone about cups or water, and because it’s kind of just what we do, the kids understand this process.
Find the fruit and veggies.
There’s usually a fruit/veggie tray at holiday gatherings, and kids typically love to dip stuff so I encourage them to load up on the carrots and celery. Sometimes this means more vehicles for the ranch dip, but I’ll take that over six more cookies.
On the whole, our family leads a fairly healthy lifestyle so I think it’s okay to relax a little bit during the holiday season. Of course, we don’t go crazy, but having a few extra treats throughout the week is part of enjoying the season.
I suppose the moral of the story is “everything in moderation,” and if we’re being intentional about our family’s health on the regular, then we don’t have to feel bad about coming together to break (ginger)bread with our loved ones during this fun season. I’d love to know about any tips you have to help your family manage holiday sweets!
Erin is gratefully living and learning from her adventures with five small children and husband in Decatur, Georgia. A former teacher, Erin now devotes nearly all of her time to trying to figure out how to raise a happy, healthy family. With her husband Josh, she helped start FitWit and The FitWit Foundation.