Five Tips to Keep Kids' Holiday Eating in Check

If your child can't even make it through the school day without being offered a cookie or a candy cane, then it must be December, the month of sugar-addled kids (and strung-out parents). While you may be tempted to throw in the towel and give up any semblance of nutrition until the New Year, you don't have to quit altogether. At the Jolly Tomato, we've got five simple ideas to help steer your kid to healthier eating through holiday excesses (and beyond):

1) Create a Kids' Drawer
Ages: 3 to 12
Want your kids to fill up on the good stuff first? Then create a kids' drawer in your refrigerator (most likely the bottom drawer). Fill it chock full of fruits, vegetables, and any other "anytime" snacks that meet your approval. Then give your kids free reign to help themselves from their drawer, whenever they please. Who knows, maybe they'll fill themselves up with good stuff before they get to the next party. Added bonus: You don't have to hear, "What's for snack?" all afternoon long.
Year-Round Take-Home Lessons: Fruits and vegetables taste good; Mom is not your kitchen slave.

2) Keep Track
Ages: 4 to 12
When adults want to lose weight, they often keep a food journal. If you want your kids to be aware of what they are eating and how much, you can help them keep track too. Give them a chart like this easy little handout and let them fill out what they eat, when they eat it. You can even turn it into a party game. Pass out copies of the sheet, and let the kids find goodies to help fill in their graphs.
Year-Round Take-Home Lesson: It takes more than brown and white foods to make a balanced diet.

3) Make Your Kid the Chef
Ages: 4 and up
Want your kids to be the architects of their own healthy meals? Make your kid the chef. Set aside one special night during this holiday season for your child to be in charge of dinner. Help them make up a menu and a shopping list. Bring them to the store and steer them through the fruits and vegetable aisles first. Then give them an apron and help them cook and serve the meal. You can even invite over some relatives or special guests, if you know they're going to be good sports about the whole thing. When our six-year-old tried this out, the main course was bacon sandwiches. But he also surprised us with an artistically arranged platter filled with tomatoes, blueberries, peppers, celery, and... sautéed onions. Who knows what is lurking in their creative minds? When they're concentrating on creating a full meal in its entirety, they tend to be less focused on dessert.
Year-Round Take-Home Lessons: Healthy meal planning takes time; it's good to be the king (of the kitchen).

4) Keep The Routine
Ages: 1 and up
Even though your schedule is filled with those 2 pm holiday buffets, you should do your best to keep a normal schedule. That means continuing to serve healthy meals at the normal time each day. When you get to a party, your kids can graze but they shouldn't be starved. In the same vein, when your kids are heading off to party after party, they're bound to be eating more than usual so make sure that they're not missing their normal run-around time. Get the family together to walk to your neighborhood parties, organize a football game when all of the cousins are visiting, or take them to a park to test out their new glider planes.
Year-Round Take-Home Lessons: It's important to make time for healthy meals; running around is more fun than sitting on the couch.

5) Let a Party Be a Party
All ages
When it truly is party time, relax a little. You're never going to enjoy yourself if you're spending the whole party counting how many M&Ms your little one has eaten. If your child has generally been eating well all year long, there's no sense turning yourself into the food police for this occasion. Who knows, your kid might be having such a good time that he or she walks right by that big bowl of candy.
Year-Round Lessons: Celebrations are to be enjoyed; life is good.