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Eating During the Holidays: Ask the Experts from Brenner FIT

Written by: Melissa Moses, MS, RD, LDN

I want the holidays to be a time to celebrate with family and friends. However, I am stressed at holiday celebrations when I watch my son pile macaroni and cheese and other favorite foods on his plate. I am concerned about his weight, and I want him to be healthy. Healthy foods at the holidays seem scarce. So I am more focused on his eating than on enjoying this time. Please help me put some joy into holiday eating.
Signed: Concerned Mom #FeelingLikeTheFoodPolice

Concerned Mom, Worrying about holiday eating is a common concern for many parents. You are right on track by wanting everyone to enjoy eating. Eating holiday foods should be free of feelings of shame and guilt. We want kids to learn to enjoy all foods. Here are a few tips to help kids at the holidays:

Keep a routine around eating. With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, feeding a family routinely may be less of a priority. Families skip meals or snacks because they are too busy. Or skip a meal to save calories for overindulging at a holiday meal. Kids who come to meals too hungry are more likely to overeat and not listen to body cues. Keep eating on a usual and predictable routine with meals and sit-down snacks. This routine allows kids to come to the meal hungry and ready to eat what they need to be satisfied. 

Help your child to pay attention while eating. Paying attention to eating during the holidays is hard. Kids mindlessly eat as food sits out at a family gathering. Or stand while eating at a party. Paying attention to eating allows everyone to enjoy eating and the taste of favorite foods. Help kids to find a place during holiday gatherings that allows them to sit and enjoy meals and snacks.  

Make forbidden foods not forbidden. Forbidden foods are things that we don’t allow ourselves and kids to eat regularly, like candy, ice cream and chips. When we do this, the pie and cookies become more desirable than fruits and vegetables. Kids are more likely to overeat what they are not allowed to have. Parents can help their kids to enjoy eating by not forbidding any food. As a parent, you are in charge of how often any type of food is offered. Teach kids how to enjoy these foods by offering cookies and milk as a snack or include a dessert with a meal sometimes. 

Trust kids to do their job with eating. When we do our job with feeding our kids (keeping a routine, having sit–down meals and snacks, offering a balance of foods), kids will succeed in their job of eating. Trust that your kid will grow up to eat the foods you eat and enjoy eating satisfying amounts. With your support, your child will learn to eat well through the entire year. 

Signed: Melissa

This article was written by staff who are apart of Brenner FIT (Families in Training). Brenner FIT is a pediatric weight management program at Brenner Children’s Hospital that helps families create healthier lifestyles together. Brenner FIT offers free cooking, nutrition and parenting classes. Visit BrennerChildrens.org/BrennerFit for our current class listing.