By Lauren Sharifi, RD LDN
Holidays go hand in hand with food for good reason. Food is a great way to gather family and friends together, and lots of great memories and traditions can be made around food. This may include eating Thanksgiving dinner around the table with close family, making cookies with your kids, or sipping hot cocoa or eggnog while decorating the house for the season.
Needless to say, there are many opportunities this time of year to create healthy eating habits and experiences for your kids, many of which can continue throughout childhood. This can be a great time to expose your children to new foods and flavors, and get them involved in planning and cooking. It’s also a great time to model healthy eating behaviors and show that all foods can fit!
What can parents do to inspire a healthy eater this holiday season?
Get kids involved in planning the holiday meal, shopping for food, and cooking. Give your children a few options for the main dish, sides, and dessert, and let them choose what they would like to eat. Bring them to the grocery store to pick out the food you need to make the meal. When it’s time to prepare the meal, involve your kids in the preparation and cooking of a few dishes. The more you involve your kids, the more likely they will eat what you make and even try foods they have not had before!
Serve food family style. In this scenario, you are providing your children the what, with maybe a little input from them if they helped plan the meal. This puts your children in control of how much they eat and whether they will eat something. Believe it or not, this tactic gives them the ability to eat as much as they need to grow, without pressure. At first they may take just a couple of bites, but eventually they will start trying new foods and taking a little bit of everything.
Lead by example. Modeling is an important way to show your kids how to eat and the importance of eating a variety of different foods. If they see you choosing and eating Brussels sprouts, they may, too!
Have an all-foods-fit model. Avoiding or restricting any specific food will just lead to kids wanting it even more. I see this a lot with kids when sweets and treats are restricted. Instead, allow these foods on occasion so they know they can have them. This decreases the desire and allows kids to eat as much as they would like. This could be a whole portion or just a few bites.
These are great tips you can start with your family today! If these are all new to you, consider incorporating one at a time, starting with the one you feel most comfortable implementing.
Lauren Sharifi is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and food blogger at biteofhealthnutrition.com. Lauren works in private practice in Brighton at ASF-Peak Health. She specializes in wellness and family/pediatric nutrition and works with individuals and families to make healthy eating easy, enjoyable and sustainable!