The holidays start with Trick-or-Trick, meander past Happy Thanksgiving, sugar-plum skip by Christmas and drop heavily with a Happy New Year feast. We send our children on a sixty day sugar high with family get togethers, school functions and community events. According to the National Confectioners’ Association, Americans eat nearly four billion dollars in candy during this holiday season. This far exceeds the added sugar recommendations established by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The overload of added sugar contributes to childhood obesity, and places them at-risk of chronic life long diseases.
What is a parent to do? Planning is key to celebrating family traditions without sugar overload.
- Talk to your school about opting for healthier school party choices. Instead of candy bars at Halloween try low-fat cheese sticks turned into ghosts by putting eyes and a mouth on the wrapper with a marker. Water bottles can become reindeers and replace sugary drinks.
- Rather than Trick-or-Treating in the neighborhood, dress up and go to a corn maze or host a party with a focus on games.
- Leave Santa applesauce instead of cookies.
- Before heading out to a party, have a healthy meal. Hungry children tend to eat more junk food.
- Make sure there are a lot of healthy finger foods available for your children at family gatherings. This could be bowls of fruits, cut up veggies with a low-fat dip, and pretzels.
- When Trick-or-Treating, limit your route to one block or ten houses. Using a small container makes the loot look bigger.
- Rather than candy canes on the tree, try popcorn strings.
- Plan family activities that provides physical activity.
- Stockings can contain small stickers, tattoos and art supplies rather than candy and cookies.
- Be a good role model for your child. Be aware of your selections and opt for the veggies and limit sugary drinks.
Small changes make a big impact. Check out the Make Healthier Holiday Choices Tip Sheet from MyPlate.