With no holiday parties, school singalongs, or large family gatherings, there’s no doubt this holiday season has been like no other. Although there’s a lot of uncertainty, chances are you’ll still be baking cookies, indulging in traditional holiday meals, buying and wrapping presents, and trying to make the season special for your kids.
The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, but overindulging from now until New Year’s Eve can lead to weight gain, affect everyone’s mood, interfere with sleep, and make your family more likely to get sick. With a few healthy holiday tips, however, you can enjoy all the season has to offer without all the pitfalls.
HEALTHY HOLIDAY TIPS FOR YOUR FAMILY
If you’re looking to cut back on some of the sugar, prevent holiday weight gain, prioritize sleep, and reduce stress, these healthy holiday tips will keep you on track.
1. LIGHTEN UP YOUR BAKING RECIPES
Between pumpkin pie, eggnog, and all those Christmas cookies, there will be plenty of sweets to go around, but that doesn’t mean everything you make has to be high in calories, saturated fat, and sugar.
With a few simple substitutions, there are several ways to bake healthy during the holidays and still enjoy all the desserts.
For example, you can swap all-purpose flour for almond flour, which is a good source of protein and fiber.
You can also cut back on some of the sugar in your recipes without affecting the flavor, and swap avocado for butter.
Related: 7 Healthy Holiday Baking Tips
2. DON’T SKIP MEALS
If you know your family will eat a large holiday meal later on in the day, you might be tempted to skip breakfast or lunch.
If you sit down to dinner feeling famished, however, you’ll be more likely to overeat when the meal is served.
“When people skip meals, they feel like they’re owed something later in the day so they tend to overeat at their next meal,” Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN stated in this article.
Do your best to have healthy meals and snacks at the same times you and your family usually eat.
If dinner will be served in the middle of the afternoon, for example, you may want to have a snack instead of a meal.
A combination of protein and fiber such as celery sticks and hummus or an apple with almond butter are good options.
3. MAKE A HEALTHY DISH
There’s nothing wrong with having indulgent, decadent dishes but consider making a healthy meal everyone can enjoy.
If your kids have food allergies or specific dietary restrictions, making a healthy dish is also a great way to keep them safe and ensure they have something to eat.
4. MODEL HEALTHY EATING HABITS
You can teach your kids how to enjoy all the delicious food without going overboard by modeling healthy eating habits.
Take small, healthy portions, make choices about what goes on your plate, and enjoy everything in moderation—and your kids will likely follow suit.
When most people are reaching for second and third portions, you can show your child that it’s possible to enjoy the food without stuffing your face.
Related: How To Teach Kids Portion Control
5. GET MOVING
To help burn off excess calories, combat holiday stress, and keep everyone on an even keel, carve out time before or after your holiday celebration to do something active.
This can be as simple as a walk around the neighborhood, a game of catch in the backyard, an indoor dance party, or a game of Twister.
Related: 10 Holiday Stress Tips for Moms
6. GIVE KIDS A KIDS-SIZED PLATE
Kids don’t need the same size dinner plate as adults and may end up eating more because of it.
Make sure your kid has a kid-sized plate or an appetizer plate to keep portions healthy. I like Health Beet’s Portion Plate Choose MyPlate.
7. PAY ATTENTION TO HUNGER AND SATIETY CUES
When food is in abundance during the holidays, it’s easy to overeat.
Paying attention to your hunger and satiety cues, however, can prevent you from reaching for seconds.
If your kids tend to overeat on special occasions too, depending on their ages, you can talk to them about eating when they’re hungry and stopping when they’re satisfied.
Sure, there’s always room for dessert but teaching them how to recognize their hunger and satiety cues can prevent them from eating just because the food is there.
8. MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY
Irregular schedules and later-than-usual bedtimes can throw everyone in the family off schedule.
Without enough sleep, you and your kids will be irritable and more likely to reach for food and make unhealthy food choices.
In fact, an August 2018 study in the Journal of Sleep Research found that kids who regularly fell asleep after 11 pm were 2 to 3 times more likely to eat junk food at least 5 times a week.
Do your best to get your kids to bed on a regular schedule and try to turn in early yourself.
It’s also a good idea to practice good sleep hygiene.
Power down devices 1 to 2 hours before bedtime, use black-out shades, and find ways to wind down before bed such as turning off the news and doing something relaxing like reading, taking a bath, or practicing meditation.
9. STRIKE A BALANCE
Raising kids to be healthy eaters includes teaching them how to enjoy delicious food, not be deprived of it.
Allow treats, but also strike a balance by serving plenty of healthy, whole foods including plenty of vegetables on days when you’re not celebrating.