11 Simple Healthy Habits For the Holidays                                                    

What is the best bit of the holiday season for parents? Seeing your kids have an amazing time is pretty high on the list isn’t it. What about for your kids? I suspect if you asked my kids, their list of great things would go “presents, chocolate and more presents”.

The list of edible treats around holiday time goes on and on, candy, mince pies, chocolate, Christmas pudding (do you have that in the US? It’s one of my favourites with a large dollop of rather unhealthy brandy butter.)

Let’s face it, even regular meals have a tendency to slip down the “healthy” slide and become more of a treat. Roast potatoes, glazed carrots (carrots with added butter and sugar), lashings of turkey and bacon.

During the holidays, it’s easy to forget all about healthy eating and teaching your kids healthy eating habits.

Nothing You Can’t Eat in Moderation

Of course treats are part of a healthy diet. There isn’t anything that you can’t eat as long as you eat it in moderation. The problem with holiday season is that moderation often goes out of the window.

There is no “one size fits all” set of rules that I can give you. You know your family and your kids and what you expect from them but here is some general advice to help you strike the balance between enjoying a great holiday and sticking to healthy habits.

  1. Relaxing the rules a bit is fine. Although you don’t want to teach your kids to associate eating with emotions (such as drowning your sorrows in a big tub of chocolate ice cream) there’s no doubt that part of life and enjoying life comes through what we eat. When we come together at festivals and with our family we do eat more treat food than normal. As your kids get older, you can explain that we’re eating more treats because it’s a special time but normally we don’t have so many treats.

2. Set your limits. Having said that, it’s a good idea to decide in advance how many sweet treats you’re happy for your kids to have each day. It can quickly add up. When your kids go to a party, it’s a good idea to teach them a personal limit. Left to their own devices my children will go to a party and eat piles and piles of candy with the odd chocolate sandwich as a nod to “actual food”. Even when they come home and complain of a tummy ache, it still doesn’t deter them the next time. A better way is to give them an actual limit. “You can eat 15 sweets and 2 slices of cake”. (Yes, that’s a lot. We don’t go to parties very often!)

3. Keep to Your Child’s Routine. It can be difficult to keep to routine when there are lots of things going on. But stick to their sleep and eating routine as much as possible. Chocolate tree decorations for “afternoon snack” (perhaps with some apple slices as well) is better than “chocolate tree decorations” 5 minutes before dinner which they surely won’t eat.

4. Eat to 80% full. We all have a tendency to over eat. We eat until we feel bursting. It’s way better to eat until we no longer feel hungry, or “80% full”. And when your kids do eat too much and feel stuffed, explain to them why. We all do it from time to time but recognizing it is important. You want to teach them to listen to their tummies and not override the “I’m full up signals”.

5. Appropriate Portion Sizes. Give your kids appropriate portions. If you’re not sure, err on the side of smaller and let them have seconds if they’re still hungry. This is especially true of dessert. There is a school of thought that says “only one portion of dessert”. In our house, we only have dessert twice a week so I allow seconds but if you have dessert every day, it is worth considering.

6. Remember the veggies. Even if you know that your kids aren’t going to eat them, YOU will right? You’re still going to enjoy them. You want to send the message that vegetables are foods to be enjoyed. Plus they might surprise you and actually eat them.

7. Healthy Treats. Treats don’t have to be all full of sugar. There are loads of easy and healthy treats that you can make.

8. Get the Kids in the Kitchen. We all know that getting kids involved with cooking is a great way to help them eat a healthy diet and understand about food preparation. Christmas is the perfect time to start getting them involved with the excitement of preparation. A great time to build family traditions. Uncle Sam makes bread sauce, Aunty Stef does the sprouts and the kids write out menus. Everyone working together as a team!

9. Healthy Snacks in Sight (treats in the cupboard.) I know your candy-seeking-missiles aren’t going to forget that there’s candy in the house, but they’re much more likely to eat fruit if it’s on the table within reach.

10. Do Some Exercise. Remember to keep active and incorporate some physical activities into your holiday. Outdoor family games, walks in the forest or along the coast, bike riding or roller skating. Pick an activity that your family loves and enjoy it.

11. Get Back on Track after the holiday season. Even if I’ve managed to keep it relatively healthy, after all that rich food, I know that my body is craving some simple vegetables to get back on track.

Remember that healthy eating and teaching your kids healthy habits is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s something we need to work on every day. Once you have those habits, they’re much easier to maintain. If you’d like some a reminder of these tips, you can sign up to my newsletter to receive a cheat sheet on “how to improve your kid’s diet”.


Dr Orlena Kerek is a pediatric doctor. She is the creator and producer of SnottyNoses, a family and parenting site. She is passionate about promoting a healthy lifestyle in children, especially healthy eating habits.                                 

She has published two books, Crunch! about how to help your children eat a healthy diet and her Healthy Eating for Picky Toddlers. A Pediatrician’s Guide to Happy Meals.


This entry was posted in healthy holidays, Inspirational, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge