I often get asked about tips for healthier holiday eating or how to control a child's eating over the holidays. From Halloween to New Year's Day, we are bombarded with messages about how to prevent dreaded holiday weight gain or about feeling guilty eating "forbidden foods".
What are these messages saying to our kids? As a registered dietitian, you might think that I would applaud these messages to encourage eating healthier over the holidays—but I think we are missing the big picture. When did it become taboo for kids to eat their Halloween candy or take that extra helping of mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving? Preparing traditional family recipes often brings us joy so why do we feel so guilty afterwards?
As parents and caregivers, we want what is best for our kids. We want them to eat their fruits and vegetables and to limit eating sweets. For younger children, it's something that we can control for the most part. But for a lifetime of healthy eating, we need to teach them how to balance their food choices so they don't feel guilty eating unhealthy foods.
A recent article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics demonstrated that when overweight adolescents had sugar restrictions, they ended up eating more sugar when it was available to them leading to an increased focus on the restricted food.
Parent and caregivers can help children at holiday meal times by: