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Make the Holidays About More Than Just Feasting

Friday, October 31, 2008

Enjoying time together is the best part about the holidays.

The holidays are often as wonderful as they are stressful not only for parents, but for kids as well. It can be easy to skip meals, eat too many treats, and loaf around. University of Rochester Medical Center eating disorders and childhood obesity experts, alike, say we should be careful not to lose our healthy eating habits. “Focus on being with family, friends and loved ones, rather than ‘what’s to eat, ’” said Richard E. Kreipe, M.D., professor of the pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong and an eating disorders expert. Model healthy eating and promote family activities to ensure a happy and healthy holiday environment for kids and their families.

Model Healthy Eating

Healthy eating is a lifestyle. “Kids who are taught from a young age to eat well and note their hunger level are much more prepared to make healthy choices later in life,” said Stephen R. Cook, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor for the Department of Pediatrics at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong. Bring the kids into the kitchen while preparing healthy holiday meals. By watching adults prepare foods, kids can get some tips on healthy eating and engage in a family activity.

At the dinner table, adults should encourage small portions of a variety of foods and lots of fruits and vegetables. “Encourage water as the beverage of choice between meals,” said Kreipe. Milk is another nutrient-rich beverage. Express Excitement It is important not to overemphasize healthy habits. Pressuring kids to eat things they do not like and prohibiting certain foods can be frustrating and stressful to kids. “Talk with children ahead of time about taking small portions, eating single-servings and sharing desserts,” advised Cook.

“The single most important thing that parents can do is lead by example,” stressed Kreipe. “Listen twice as much as you talk and don’t talk about food in the same breath as calories, guilt, or ‘paying the price.’” Turn healthy eating into a positive experience by showing excitement about trying a variety of healthy foods in small portions. Be Active Cold weather doesn’t have to limit activity during holiday seasons. There is plenty that families can do to get off the couch and enjoy one another’s company. “Going for a nice brisk walk, especially after eating a heavy meal, can be refreshing and relaxing,” Kreipe said.

“Play family games together, play music and dance,” encouraged Cook. “Engaging in activities that don’t center on food invites everyone to participate. Plus, it is a healthier alternative to watching the game with a bowl of chips.” Make the holidays about more than just eating and gift-giving. Get creative and carve out fun activities to do with the entire family for a fulfilling and memorable holiday season.

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