Are We Vilifying The Holidays???

Are We Vilifying The Holidays???

This morning I prepared a cute little Christmas Tree plate for my son out of kiwi. Banana and strawberry. I absolutely love having fun with my food and shaping it into different things. Its so exciting to create healthy alternatives for the holidays. It’s also fascinating to see your child’s face light up when they see food presented this way. Fast forward to this afternoon when I saw a picture of a veggie “gingerbread house” and it completely blew me away. NOT in a good way (I mean it’s really cute and probably something I would do BUT it has a meaning that I’m not overly fond of at the moment).                                         

Last year I was interviewed by a local radio station on Halloween night. I was asked to share some healthy tips for candy consumption when it came to the kiddies. I suggested various ideas like:

  1. Getting the kiddies to make 2 piles, one with their favorite treats and the other pile would be treats they didn’t particularly care for. This second pile would be donated to the ‘treat fairy’ so parents could eat these or throw them out. This teaches children to appreciate the treats they like and not just eat everything because they can. Mindlessly eating things isn’t a good habit to cultivate.
  2. Allowing children to choose 1 or 2 treats every night to have after they have eaten their supper. This teaches the children about moderation and responsibility. They can have a little treat every day which is much better than restricting and than binge eating a ton of treats one day during the week.
  3. Talking to the kids about healthy food and treat food. I don’t like the phrase junk food or bad food because it implies that some food is better than others. I think that all food has a place and a time. Treats are delicious and should be enjoyed, just not every day. Teaching your children that treats are for special occasions makes them ‘special’. Children will savor them more and learn to appreciate them rather than fostering an unhealthy relationship with“junk food” that leads them to try to eat as much as they can when they’re out of the house or when they get their own bit of money.

Not once in this conversation or within any of my suggestions did I say that parents shouldn’t let their children trick or treat or have any treats at all. Its better to teach them about how to make healthy choices, how to eat different foods in moderation and how to appreciate and savor different foods at different times.
Now I am here thinking of healthy alternatives for Christmas treats but last week I made my nan’s famous Cherry Cake (I made them into bit size squares) and after I took just one bite, my mouth exploded with the flavor and my brain became warm and fuzzy with the thoughts of my childhood and my heart felt the Christmas Spirit. Do you really want your kids to miss out on this experience??? Tastes and smells create the most beautiful and long lasting memories!

Every week I have clients in my chairs and they share their weekly eating habits with me. These clients will look away as they share with me that they ate a chocolate bar that day or look at me in misery as they share with me how much they miss Doritos. As we make our weekly plan I always get looks of shock when I say…ok…on Friday or Saturday you are going to sit down and pick your favorite treat and….EAT it! Dietitians will never put you on a diet or restrict any type of food, unless of course they are advising you to do so because of a medical condition. Do you want to know a secret??? Your health and weight are affected by the things you do EVERY day…NOT by the things you do just once per week and DEFINITIELY not by the things you do once per year.
There…I eventually made my way to the very topic I wanted to discuss…VILIFYING the holidays (you’re a mean one Mr. Grinch). I absolutely cannot believe how many people are taking the joy out of creating magical memories like decorating Gingerbread houses together or going Trick or Treating. These are things that children should experience! Your children will not develop diabetes, heart disease, obesity or any of those chronic diseases because they had treats at Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s or Halloween. I promise you. They MAY develop unhealthy eating habits however if you talk about GOOD and BAD foods, if you won’t let them have a cookie at a birthday party or you don’t let them go trick or treating. All during the week you can ensure your children are eating their fruits and veggies, drinking their milk, getting the appropriate amount of exercise but once per week they should be able to enjoy a treat and definitely once per year. This year I had 6 Trick or Treaters. SIX. I mean I feel like while the kids are walking around they are getting their exercise. And those little treats are so small it’s not a big deal at all. The same with Christmas. I think if I went to my Grandmas house and told her I wouldn’t eat one of her famous Christmas cookies she would actually smack my hand with a wooden spoon and tell me I’m too small, I need the sugar or something to that effect AND she’s right.
Recently I heard that our generation is the first NOT to outlive their parents. Our parents and grandparents ate their Christmas cookies. We have to look at our every day practices. If you are choosing healthy options and creating healthy habits all week long and mostly on the weekend, there is nothing wrong with eating some Christmas chocolates or cookies. When you feel excessively guilty or like you have to hide in a closet while you eat a bag of Skittles then that IS a problem.
So at the end of the day, what am I trying to say (or rant about)? Treats are OK, they should be savored and appreciated. Talk with your children about them the same way you would about healthy food. It shouldn’t be held for ransom, your child shouldn’t feel like they need to secretly buy candy and eat it in their room alone. This opens a whole other can of worms and creates unhealthy eating patterns. Take them to the store and celebrate getting to pick a treat on occasion. Bring back Halloween!!! Bring back Christmas!!!

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