The Season of Overindulgence: Nurturing Healthy Holiday Eating Habits in Kids

Krystal DeVille

Multi Generation Family Celebrating With Christmas Meal.

As the hustle and bustle of the holidays approaches, it is natural for normal healthy rhythms to become disrupted during a season of family, festivities, and food. Temptations for overindulgence lurk behind every corner as parties travel, and inconsistencies in regular routines disrupt daily habits. When everyone seems to be splurging and living in a culture of excess, achieving a healthy, well-balanced life can be complex as the new year approaches. 

Holiday-Proofing Your Plan

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends holiday-proofing your meal plans to avoid overindulgence during busy holidays. When children find themselves in situations where they cannot help but be tempted by tasty sweets and treats, it can be helpful to have a plan to avoid unhealthy binging. 

Bring on the Veggies

When preparing for a holiday party, ask children to be involved in researching and choosing a healthy dish to bring. Seasonal Cravings offers a variety of hearty filling options that are nutrient-rich. 

Discussing healthy buffet-style eating before arriving at such an event can help children make healthy choices about what to eat. Determining that everyone must start with a healthy vegetable is an excellent first option. Not only do vegetables provide essential minerals and nutrients our bodies need, but they can also stave off hunger, helping prevent overindulgence in less nutrient-rich foods. 

Are you preparing the spread? Heart UK suggests going heavy on vegetables. Commit to serving bowls full of carrots, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and more. Include enough vegetables to cover about a third of each person’s holiday plate. Serve vegetables at the beginning of the spread to make sure they don’t get replaced by more tempting dishes down the line.  

Focusing on veggies is an uphill order. If you find your child resisting, gamify the event. Challenge your family to “eat the rainbow” daily – or incorporate as much color as possible onto their plates. Colorful foods are filled with vitamins and fiber, helping regulate a healthy gut and reducing disease risk. Limit white foods, which offer insignificant nutritional value. Rice, potatoes, pasta, and bread should all be consumed in moderation. 

Cultural Perspectives on Holiday Eating

From a global perspective, observing how different cultures approach holiday feasting, especially concerning children’s eating habits, is enlightening. For instance, in Mediterranean countries, the emphasis on fresh produce and family-style meals offers a model of balance and communal eating. In Japan, the tradition of ‘Osechi-ryori’ during New Year celebrations showcases an array of small, nutritionally balanced dishes, teaching children the value of variety and moderation. 

Similarly, Scandinavian countries often incorporate a vast array of fish and lean meats in their holiday spreads, coupled with an outdoor lifestyle, providing insights into maintaining a healthy balance during festive times. These cultural practices underscore a fundamental principle: holidays can be celebratory and health-conscious. Such diverse global practices can inspire families to adopt new traditions that prioritize health without sacrificing the joy and spirit of the holiday season.

Look at Portion Control

Portion control is another way to encourage better eating habits during the holidays. You can instruct children to use smaller plates during their buffet line experience. This will avoid piling on additional snacks and less healthy food options. 

To piggyback on eating various healthy vegetables during mealtimes, you can use the 50% rule. This means covering half of your plate with vegetables and the other half with low-carb, high-protein options. Then, when you are done with your plate, find a different activity to engage in right away instead of going back for seconds. Play a game as a family or take a brisk walk. Then, you can determine if seconds are necessary or simply a habitual response to holiday eating. 

Eliminating Overindulgence

Stick to Regular Meal Times

A primary source of holiday overindulgence is a disrupted meal schedule, especially in children. Eating at different times of the day can make us hungrier than usual, tempting us to overindulge. Even on days when eating schedules may be disrupted, you can still proactively plan to avoid bouts of hunger. 

First, start with a regularly scheduled, healthy breakfast. Proteins such as eggs and overnight oats are quick and easy meals that will create a full sensation lasting for several hours. 

Next, plan for healthy snacks if you know you are traveling or may go for an extended time between meals. Eating frequently throughout the day can decrease hunger and cravings that lead to overindulgence. Have kids help you assemble homemade snack packs filled with healthy fruits, veggies, and proteins to curb hunger between meals. The more you involve children in choosing and preparing these snacks, the more likely they will reach for one when hunger strikes.

Don’t Forget About Water

Children’sHealth also remind us not to forget about water. Encourage children to drink a glass of water between plates and wait five minutes before returning for a second serving. 

Soups and broths are suitable hydration mechanisms that make our bellies feel full. Some studies show that eating soup twice a day can result in 50% greater weight loss. If you are expecting a heavy dinner, consider incorporating soups for lunch or offer to bring one as an addition. Soups are a great way to curb hunger while ensuring high protein and vegetable levels are consistently consumed.  

By utilizing practical strategies, such as planning, emphasizing vegetable and water consumption, and taking breaks between helpings, parents can help children make healthy dietary decisions during a busy holiday season. Including children in the planning process can further support desirable eating options. Remember to stick to routines when possible and have candid discussions about portion control. Indulging without excess is possible when families openly discuss eating expectations and commit to staying together.

About Krystal DeVille

Hello! I’m Krystal DeVille. By day, I wear many hats: a homeschool teacher, wife, and mother. By night, I’m a fervent journalist, pouring my thoughts and experiences onto paper. Parenthood, for me, has been an exhilarating roller-coaster filled with emotions, invaluable lessons, and moments of sheer joy. With three wonderful kids of my own, I’ve journeyed through the highs and lows — from sleepless nights to their very first steps and those unforgettable proud parent moments.

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