Every year without fail, kids have a months-long opportunity to gorge on sweets. It starts with Halloween, and the sugary smorgasbord doesn't end until the new year. Little guys are bombarded with holiday candy and desserts for two whole months, and parents have to worry how much real estate these treats are occupying in their little guys' diets. Hiding and denying treats is a quick path to rebellion, so the holidays are actually a great time to teach kids self-management in a healthy way. Because you can talk to your kids about talk to your kids about holiday treats without giving them a complex, as long as you approach the topic thoughtfully.
On her website, educator and feeding expert Dina Rose said that parents should shift their perspective to a teaching mindset to help kids practice moderation when it comes to indulging this holiday season. By focusing on habits instead of nutrition, children can learn how to manage their eating habits instead of developing a black-and-white perspective on "good" and "bad" foods. Don't, Rose advises, lecture them about nutrition, health and how much they should eat. Focus instead on proportion, variety and moderation so kids understand that the holiday season isn't a dietary free-for-all, but a period when treats are more widely available but the everyday rules still apply.
Dietician Sally Kuzemchak wrote in Parents that kids should have free rein at holiday parties, both for the fun of it and because they are naturally great self-regulators. It's just not necessary, she writes, for parents to hover over their kids and demand they eat a full dinner off the buffet before they can have a single treat. It's a party, she continues, and parents don't need to worry about occasional sugar binges if they're making an effort to keep their kids' daily diets nutritious and limit treats at home. Instead, ask kids to assess how they're feeling if you notice they've visited the dessert table a few times.
"What I try to do with my daughter at home is I use the word 'balance' all the time. It’s ok to indulge, but we need to balance it in our healthy lifestyle," says Florida-based dietician Betsy Opyt in an interview with Romper. "You hate to tell them no, but you also don't want to tell them not to eat this or that because it will make you fat."
Opyt agrees that allowing kids to have free access at holiday parties and events is fine when they stick to a diet based on good choices in their daily life. Just talking to kids about moderation ahead of the party, in positive terms, helps set the stage for self-restraint.
"We know there are more special occasions during certain parts of the year, so you can talk to kids about how we're all going to indulge at dinner, so let's have a nice, healthy salad for lunch," she said.
What you don't want to do is use shaming language or place a negative value on certain foods. Kids are tuning into body image messages much earlier than in the past, Opyt says, so your tone is super important when it comes to internalized messages about food.
"Thanks to social media, they’re paying more attention to their social media peers and there’s more talk in the media about health and food, too," she says. "Adults focus so much on how foods can be fattening and it just sounds very negative. Instead, they should be cautious about talking about their weight because they don't want to give their kids a bad body image."
A positive, health-focused tone is what will allow kids to enjoy and moderate their sugar consumption over the holidays. As long as you're holding the line with their daily diets, parents should have no fear about encouraging a little indulgence through the holiday season.
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