Can cookies, gingerbread homes and baking be a part of a healthy holiday season? Yes, they sure can. Do the cookies and candies need to be low fat or just a healthier version? No way!!! Read on to learn how to turn cookies and candy into just another food in the pantry.
One of my family’s favorite holiday traditions is to make Gingerbread Houses! There are some places around NYC that supply endless amounts of candy and a pre-constructed, edible gingerbread houses for families to visit and decorate houses. This can produce a complete sugar meltdown or become the ideal opportunity to let children explore how food makes them feel.
When baking or making holiday yummies with the kids, it’s most important to make sure they are well fed and not hungry before they reach for the candy bags. So, first thing, I feed my boys lunch. I was actually quite surprised at how very little they picked on the candy while decorating their homes. When they did want to eat a piece, they looked to me…to get a nod of approval. And I nodded yes…each and every time. Of course they could eat the candy. It was part of the fun. In the back of my mind, however, I hoped that it wasn’t the only fun for them.
Amazingly, when we got home, they didn’t want to eat the homes they’d created. Rather, they were so proud of their “masterpieces” that they quickly put them on display. My oldest son Bobby’s home still sits on our console as a holiday decoration. Unfortunately, I must also admit that my youngest son Billy’s gingerbread home had to be displayed on a much higher level. Because he still has a hard time understanding that this food is low in nutrition. One day he’ll understand that if he eats just this, not only will he stay up way past his bedtime, but he also won’t be hungry enough to eat a food that his body really needs.
When Billy asks for his house, I ask myself: Did he eat something denser in nutrition yet? I ask him if he ate his meal yet? I more often than not take it down from the higher shelf for him. My hope is that he realizes he can have the candy…just not at every whim. He can have it some of the time, because it is a “sometimes food.”
Just today, Billy asked for his gingerbread house because his brother Bobby was having a candy or two from his house; two weeks later, Bobby’s house still displays most of the candy. I asked Billy if he’d eaten lunch yet and he said yes. But then he walked away and went off to the kitchen to eat a yogurt. He didn’t ask me for the candy house again; he just ate his yogurt and went to play with his Legos.
So I think he is getting the message about “sometimes foods.” He knows he can have them some of the time but is less able to manage this concept without parental guidance because he is so young. My oldest son has mastered this thought and impresses me every day with his ability to leave food on his plate. Bobby even leaves cookies in his lunch box to save for another day, or the afternoon, when he knows he will really enjoy them.
As parents, think about teaching your children internal self regulation. Rather than restricting your children and sending messages that junk food equals bad food, help educate them on the need for eating nutritious food the majority of the time and eating less nutritious food just some of the time.
Tips for making some foods “sometimes foods”:
- Explain what nutritious food is. For instance, it may be high in vitamins, minerals and nutrients to help kids grow or help their hearts to be strong.
- Explain what “sometimes food” is. Educate your children that certain foods are not necessary for growth but still can help by providing some energy. Let your children know that certain foods are lower in vitamins and minerals and should only be eaten some of the time…and only if your children regularly eat enough of the foods that help them grow, feel energized and prevent them from getting sick. These foods taste yummy but will not be so yummy if eaten all of the time.
- Let your children have a “sometimes food” with lunch three days a week so the food becomes neutral; you’ll be teaching moderation.
- Don’t make a big deal about “sometimes foods.”
- Allow your children to eat all foods so they don’t hide or sneak food.
- Role model eating all foods in front of your children.
- Limit the amount of “sometimes foods” in your house to about three per week so your children aren’t forced to make too many decisions about these foods.
For more information on “sometimes foods,” please refer to the Healthy Habits workbook at www.LauraCipulloLLC.com.