’Tis the season for decorating, shopping and, of course, eating. Holidays are certainly a time to celebrate, but the parties that fill our calendars between Halloween and New Year’s don’t have to derail our healthy habits. Check out our expert tips for keeping your family’s healthy habits on track during this holiday season.
Setting expectations with your kids before a party can take the stress out of a gathering. It is unreasonable to expect your kids not to eat any treats if they are available and everyone else is enjoying them. But you can discuss some limits. For example, make a party plan for indulging in treats, suggesting, “Let’s stick to one trip to the dessert table,” or “Let’s have one soda, and then we’ll switch to water.”
You can be sure there’s something healthy on the buffet if you offer to bring a dish for the party. Pick something nutritious like a veggie tray or a fruit salad, or make turkey meatballs in a slow cooker. If you plan what dish to bring with your kids, they’re much more likely to put it on their plates and eat it too.
Before picking up a plate, take a walk with your family down the buffet to see everything that is available. At parties, we tend to take a little (or a lot) of everything as we pass through the food line. In the end, we may eat something we didn’t really want. A gentle way to limit portions of less-healthy options is to remind your child that he or she needs to make sure to leave some for others.
Nonstop access to sugary and salty snacks can make it hard for anyone to stop munching. If the party is at your house, hold off on setting out treats until after the meal. Then pack the treats away once everyone has had time to enjoy them.
It’s important you have family support, so let your relatives know that this year you are making some small changes that will help balance the whole meal out. For example, you could say something like, “Grandma, everyone loves your chocolate cream pie. We don’t need to stress about having a bunch of other desserts—your pie is what we want!” Or, “You make such good ham-and-cheese potatoes. Instead of the veggie casseroles, let me make a nice cold salad to balance it out.”
A great way to celebrate is by adding fun, non-food activities to gatherings. Some of the best holiday parties include a spirited game of family football, a group walk or an outdoor scavenger hunt. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, indoor hide-and-seek, board games and karaoke are huge hits with kids. A fun distraction will come in handy when your kids return to the dessert table for another helping of cookies. No need to scold or embarrass them—you can redirect them with an activity or ask them to join you in kitchen cleanup.