Maybe your teen has “graduated” from the kids’ table to the adult table at holiday mealtime, but that doesn’t mean his tastebuds have matured much. Teens are just as tempted by holiday treats as young children, but there is a big difference with older kids—they frequently have the means to obtain what they want (many have money of their own) when they want it (lots of teens can drive to go get what they want). How do you help your teen enjoy the holidays without throwing healthful eating out the window? Here are a few ways to help, just in time for the holiday rush!
Keep your kid fueled with a healthy breakfast.
Breakfast is a chance to get in that first good dose of nutrition, and studies show that it makes a significant contribution to a child’s overall nutrition for the day, and that those who skip breakfast fall short in certain nutrients at the end of the day. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but should provide some protein (eggs, dairy, fortified cereals, nuts/nut butter), fruit and vegetables (the more colorful, the better!) and whole grains (whole-grain breads and cereals). The easiest option might be a healthful, low-sugar cereal with low-fat milk and a piece of fruit. A yogurt parfait with low-fat yogurt, fruit and a sprinkling of cereal or granola made the night before can be eaten on-the-go. Peanut butter on toast with banana slices and glass of milk is ready in a jiffy. Overnight oatmeal made in a slow-cooker is another busy-morning option. Even leftover dinner foods work—some food is better than no food in the morning.
De-sugar the snack choices.
Keeping regular meals healthful is a good way to offset some of the nutritional damage that the holiday season can impart. Yet, snack time poses problems because so many seasonal snacks are nutritionally off-the-mark. Where you normally might provide your teen with something like a peanut butter sandwich or a cup of yogurt and a handful of wheat crackers, now the kitchen is filled with cookies and candies that are so easy to grab when hunger strikes. Make it a family rule to save sweets for occasional desserts (that goes for everybody!) and stick to your regular, healthy stand-by snacks. Then, to make it fun and festive, add a few seasonal items that your teen can choose from, such as clementines, star fruit, pomegranate seeds, a selection of nuts (for the non-allergic, of course), and holiday shaped versions of healthful items like whole-grain crackers.
Share your party-time eating strategies.
There’s no need to keep your smart buffet tips to yourself. Clue your teen in! Chances are he or she hasn’t given party-eating a thought at all, so a little heads up before you head to the holiday party or open-house can be helpful. Emphasize the following:
- Check out the offerings before digging in.
- Take an appetizer plate and fill it with the more healthful choices (give an idea what those might be at that event—crudités, a fruit platter, hummus, etc).
- On the second trip to the buffet, choose only those foods that you absolutely love or that you cannot get any other time of year.
It’s the holidays and there are lots of special foods around, but there are also lots of foods that you could actually have any time of year—skip those and go for small portions of those foods that are special. If you are the host of the party this year, enlist your teen to help plan a menu that features plenty of healthy, festive offerings for the guests. Creative and seasonal fruit and vegetable platters and displays are fun to make and serve as decorations as well as food!