Invite children to help plan family’s holiday eating and snacking

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Special to the News-Herald

Ah, the holidays are here. And just after the Halloween outings. Family, fun, gifts, parties … and the battle with your kids over sweets. It’s the same old story: goodies are everywhere, there are more outings, and it gets more and more difficult to say no. How do you manage the intake of candy, cookies and soda while allowing your children to have a memorable holiday season?

There will be many opportunities for your children to have sweets and treats, and one of the keys to managing the magnitude of goodies is to talk with your family about your expectations and plans. Children want boundaries, and they do want your help in learning how to enjoy the holiday season without overdoing it. Kids will be asked to bring holiday sweets to school for parties, will be invited to friends’ homes for festivities, and will expect goodies to be under the tree, so this is a great time to help everyone learn to better manage impulse and over-eating.

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This time of year is a key opportunity to help children learn about nutrition as well as the role of celebration and moderation in a healthy lifestyle. Sit down and talk over with your family all of the plans for the season and what your expectations are for eating healthy while having fun. Let them know that you want them to have lots of fun, and that practicing moderation and good nutrition is all a part of the plan.

Present different scenarios and talk about how to handle them; for example, having two or three class parties the same day, or receiving baked goods or candies as gifts. Let them know that it’s OK to splurge this time of year, and that there will always be more parties and fun so they don’t have to eat everything at every function.

This time of year is also an opportunity to invite your children into the kitchen to help you plan, bake and deliver gifts for the holiday. Let them choose from various holiday recipes, learning from examples why one may be a better choice than another for an overweight friend or a diabetic. Use recipes that call for fruit or juice as sweeteners, or use items like carob in your recipes. Presentation is often as important as sweetness for kids, and they will enjoy being a part of the process that brings beautiful festive goodies to their friends.

Working together to prepare treats for the holdays allows you to accomplish several things:

You get to spend time with your family.

You have the opportunity to model healthy habits in the kitchen.

You can help your children learn that there are choices that are healthy and taste great. Let them choose and tell you why certain foods are better than others.

Children will take pride in their creations, and will take what they have learned into adulthood.

Children can also practice portion control rather than self-control, and this is a lot more fun.

The bottom line is that this time of year is really no different than any other. Sweets and treats can be a part of a healthy eating plan for you and your family. Here are some examples of some fun recipes for you and your children to try at home. These recipes are from Penny Warner’s Healthy Snacks for Kids book.

Monkey Milkshake

1 c sliced strawberries

1 banana

1 cup nonfat milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 ice cubes

Combine ingredients in a blender container. Blend until smooth and fluffy. Makes 2-3 servings.

Hot Cheese Funnies

1 pkg active dry yeast

1.5 c warm water (105-115 degrees F)

3.5 c flour

1 c grated cheddar cheese (use low-fat to decrease fat calories)

1 egg, beaten

Dissolve yeast in water. Stir in flour and cheese. Knead dough until smooth. (If the dough is too sticky, add more flour a teaspoon at a time.) Break off walnut-sized pieces and roll into 12-inch ropes. Twist into pretzel shapes. Place shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush with egg.

Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes. Serve warm. Makes about 30.

Jan Evans is a student dietitian at Obici Hospital, which is a member of the Suffolk Healthy Eating Task Force. The Task Force is a sub-committee of the Partnership for a Healthy Community. Its mission is to coordinate the resources of the community in a collaborative effort to improve the mental, physical, socio-economic, and spiritual health of all its citizens. Articles written by Task Force members to help promote a &uot;healthy community&uot; will appear in The Suffolk News-Herald on the last Tuesday of the month through May 2004.

For more information on the Healthy Eating Task Force, contact Virginia Savage at 934-4933.