The healthy holiday guide for families

Family celebrating healthy holiday meal

Holiday gatherings are for family, friends and … food. No matter which holidays you celebrate, they’re sure to include delicious treats — some healthy, most not. It may seem nearly impossible to always practice healthy eating habits, but there are some things you and your kids can do to stay on course this holiday season.

Plan ahead

  1. Prepare healthy items for parties at home and for potlucks, bring your kids’ favorite vegetable dish or search online for “holiday vegetable and fruit platters.” There are lots of fun recipe ideas on Google and Pinterest, like a turkey-themed platter of veggies or snowmen made from string cheese!
  2. Avoid arriving to functions hungry. Before heading out the door, eat a light but filling snack that includes protein (such as yogurt and a piece of fruit). Drink plenty of water beforehand, too, which will help you avoid drinking a lot of sugary drinks at the event — like soda, juice or punch.

Escape overeating

  1. Look at all the possible choices on a buffet table before you fill your plate. After reviewing your options, choose small servings of your preferred items — not all items on the table. Small things can add up to make you too full for the things you’d really like.
  2. Eat slowly and savor every bite to help prevent becoming too full. If you want to go for seconds, wait a few minutes first so you can really feel if you are full. If your mouth wants more taste of the yummy food, remember, your tummy may have had enough and you may do well with a drink of water.
  3. Circulate the party and avoid standing near the food table to prevent nibbling.

Make healthy food and beverage choices 

  1. Choose vegetables and fruits with meals and snacks. At the buffet table, remember to include some vegetables, even when you’re having seconds.
  2. If soda, juice or punch is served, have one small glass and then switch to seltzer or water. For your own parties, serve water and seltzer with lemon or fruit to make it special.
  3. You don’t have to pass up your favorite dessert, but remember to indulge in moderation. Have just a taste or share with someone. During dessert parties, have two to three small cookies or desserts, or one to two larger ones.

Avoid leftovers

  1. Have plenty of containers to provide leftovers to guests to avoid having holiday treats at home for several days.
  2. Graciously decline bringing leftovers home. One day of indulgence is better than several.
  3. At home, limit special sweets. If baking at home, package and store those items for giving away separately so it is less tempting to dip into them. Try putting them in the freezer or seal and tape them.

Remember to move

  1. Turn on the music while you’re prepping and dance!
  2. Be prepared with active social games like Twister, Charades, Pancake Pile-Up or Heads Up!
  3. Work physical activity into your holiday party planning — take a walk between dinner and dessert, play Frisbee or build a snowman.

Here’s wishing your family a happy, healthy holiday season.

Learn more about Boston Children’s Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) Program.

About the bloggers: Amanda Rauf and Abigail Seibert are psychologists with the OWL Program, working with children and families to help create solutions toward successful outcomes. Sharon Weston is a registered dietitian in the OWL Program, working with a variety of patients to encourage creative and practical solutions to optimize nutrition.