Visions of sugarplums may well be dancing in children’s heads this holiday season, but it’s when that sugar makes its way to their stomachs that parents can have a hard time ensuring their kids are eating a healthy diet during the holiday season. The good news? The sugar found in many treats isn’t making them as crazy as you might think. “Sugar does not make kids hyper”, explains nutritionist and author of “Ace Your Health”, Theresa Albert. “It is most likely the over stimulating environment that makes them misbehave”, she says, and if there is a change in their behaviour following a journey through the dessert table, another culprit is probably to blame. “It is otherwise likely to be the caffeine in the chocolate.” So too much sugar is bad from a nutritional standpoint, and caffeine can make them overstimulated…but how do you stop the kids from consuming more chocolate and other treats than they should during this time of the year?
Keeping kids away from the yummy but not nutritious food that’s available at parties and gatherings can be tough, especially when relatives are encouraging them to enjoy and treat themselves. Mississauga Mom of three young boys, Orysa Steele struggles with the normal rules and the tough balance of indulgence and sensibility. “During the holidays we try to ease up a bit on them, since there are so many treats around. We usually feed them something decent before we go somewhere, so they are not out with empty tummies.” Albert agrees it’s a great strategy to plan for these situations in advance. “Rule number one when taking kids to a party is not to count on that party for sustenance.” Assuming that your child will get enough (healthy) food to eat at a holiday party can set both of you up for a disappointment. Kids don’t always like what’s being served if the food is different than what they’re used to, and they may try to sneak past the main course and go right into the cakes and cookies. “A good hearty meal served just before entering the party will buy you an hour or so to chat while your child is too full to be overly tempted by more than a few of the chocolates in the bowl.”, says Albert. If you’re attending a pot luck meal or a function where you’ve been asked to bring something, make sure it’s something your child will recognize, and likes. “Contributing the mashed potatoes or baked sweet potatoes to the dinner table that are made the way your child likes them is a good way to get some sustenance into her when everything else looks weird.” Steele agrees it’s important to find a method that works. “I find a “trade off” system can work too. Tell them if they eat a piece of fruit, then they can have the cookies or whatever.”
Eating “out” also has the added pressure of parenting in public and when faced with relatives and friends looking on. “Taking the pressure off the meal is the name of the whole game but never is it more important than when your mother in law is watching or your sister is commenting.” Albert commiserates. “Layering on good experiences at social gatherings helps a child learn how to navigate these situations without feeling stress and anxiety.” she advises.
At the end of the day, it is a holiday season and we’re all entitled to a little bit of indulgence. “It is difficult to keep on top of all the snacking, but if you try to keep things under control while you are at home, then they can have some treats when they go out – and it should be part of the fun of the season”, says Steele.
Kathy Buckworth is an award winning author of five books, including her latest “Shut Up and Eat: Tales of Chicken, Children and Chardonnay”. Kathy is the only two time winner of the Professional Writers Association of Canada’s Excellence in Humour Award. She writes for national publications and is a featured parenting expert on CTVNewsChannel, and other television programs. She is a corporate spokesperson and in-demand public speaker. Kathy lives in Mississauga with her husband and four children.
This article first appeared in Playhouse Disney and can be found at this link: http://www.disneyjunior.ca/en/parents/2010/12/happy-holiday-treat-tips