Holiday Sugar Rush? Is that really a thing parents worry about with their kids? Yes. But we have tips from a real mom and dietitian, Sally, on how to handle your fears and help kids manage their holiday treats and sugar intake.
We spoke with Sally about how to handle the holiday sugar rush that so many parents seem to fear on our Balancing The Holiday Sugar Rush podcast a few years ago and we are excited that she has some additional tips on how to help kids manage their holiday treats.
December is a month of celebrations, and it can seem like sweets and treats are everywhere during this time. That can feel stressful for a lot of parents. So if you’re wondering how to enjoy the season without feeling anxious that your kids are subsisting mostly on sugar cookies and festive holiday punch, here’s my advice as a dietitian and mom:
Don’t micromanage at parties
I’ve witnessed many parents trailing their kids at gatherings, dictating how many more bites they need to take before they can have dessert or monitoring how many cookies they’re having. It’s stressful for everyone involved!
Kids are actually really good at regulating their intake. Yes, they may eat more party foods when they’re out and about or go for the fudge instead of the veggies on a holiday party buffet. But they’ll go back to their usual routines at home–and the number of meals and snacks at home this month is far greater than the number of parties.
Give occasional free-reign access at home
I know this sounds crazy, so bear with me. This is one of the recommendations from renowned feeding expert Ellyn Satter, RD, who says that periodically allowing children to have as much as they want of sweets and other “forbidden foods” can help them feel more relaxed around these foods and avoid being fixated on them.
I tried this myself one year with Christmas cookies. I set out a tray with all the cookies we had, plus a plate of fruit and cheese, when my son and his friend were home after school. To my delight (and yes, surprise), they each had a few cookies, some fruit and cheese, and then headed off to play. It was no big deal. When children know they can have these foods, they don’t need to feel desperate to get them–or overeat, sneak, or hide them when they do get access to them.
Serve regular meals and snacks
This is all easier to do if kids are getting regular meals and snacks with the usual, healthy foods you serve. As a mom, I know I feel a better sense of balance when our usual habits are in place most days. Have fresh fruit on the counter where it’s easy to see and grab and set out a veggie tray in the afternoon.
It’s also okay to talk to your kids about balance. For instance, if they’re asking for sweets on the day of a party, it’s reasonable to tell them that they’re going to a get-together later and they’ll have the chance to have desserts there. And just as you might tend to gravitate toward lighter meals after a season of heavier foods, your kids may feel the same way.
In the meantime, enjoy the season, being with people you love–and all of the special foods it involves!