The Holidays: A Time to Nourish Healthy Eating Habits

Food brings people together, creates an atmosphere of comfort as the smells of a favorite meal waft through the air, and supports family traditions as recipes are handed down year after year. While the holidays are often a time to indulge, they can provide parents with a unique opportunity to teach their children healthy eating habits. Here are some helpful tips to remember as we enter a season of holidays and celebration:

1. Teach your children balance.

This one is obviously applicable to every day of the year – but when foods high in sugar are abundant, the need to encourage a balanced diet with your children is even more important. Create boundaries with food and allow them to eat a certain amount of a desired food along with nutrient-filled foods. To teach your children balance when it comes to eating, try following these tips:

  • Set the expectations as early as possible. Give your children a fair warning that they will be able to enjoy the deserts they look  forward to during the holiday season, but they will also have to eat other foods to make sure they’re getting the nutrients they need to be healthy and grow strong. Be specific and realistic.
  • Create an environment for success. If your child is only allowed one Christmas cookie, it may be good idea to put the rest of the cookies out of sight.

2. Remember that your child’s relationship with food can have a significant impact on his or her self-image.

Remember to be aware of the importance of implementing healthy eating habits with your children, while being sure to not make this the topic of season or associated with a great deal of stress and frustration. Eating habits should be taught to children in a way that sends a message of creating good health, rather than a message that aligns food with one’s outward appearance. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid using food as a reward, and never take away food from children as a source of punishment.
  • Do not encourage the idea that food is used as a coping mechanism. Describing food as “comfort food” or sending the message to children that food can help you feel better blurs limits a child’s ability to self-soothe with healthy practices, such as communicating with a trusted person.

3. Practice what you preach.

One of the best ways to teach children anything, especially healthy eating habits, is through modeling. Children are always watching and pick up on parents’ behaviors even if they do not speak about it. Approach the topic as a team effort as a family in having a balanced meal and well-portioned sweets. Respect for authority should absolutely be taught to children, but eating is a very important issue that should be approached with sensitivity and thoughtfulness.

In the case of eating, practicing what you preach by applying the same rules to everyone at the table can be very beneficial for the entire family.

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