Of course, it is important to help kids develop and maintain healthy habits throughout the year. That is the key to raising a healthy child and most importantly, helping them develop lifelong health habits.
But let's face it. The holiday season is time when the average American will put on some weight. It's a time when the whole family can fall out of healthy habits. Here is four key recommendations from David Kahan, a professor of exercise and nutrition from San Diego State University.
1. Stay active: During winter break, normal daily physical activity is suspended, so it's important to keep children active at home. Kahan recommends up to several hours of moderate physical activity daily. Family outings or sports and activity camps are excellent outlets for youthful energy. It may be difficult to maintain a regimen during this time, so use a calendar and plan physical activity together, while also encouraging spontaneous play.
2. Screen it: Overindulging in screen time (TV, movies, video games) is more likely to occur during the holiday, when school is out of session. Instead of banning screen time altogether, Kahan suggests creating a reasonable schedule ahead of time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of quality programming per day. Plan up to a week in advance with your child to sort out programs as "musts," "maybes" and "can live without." Keep only the "musts," and make additional watching contingent on completing an equal number of hours of quality physical activity.
3. Physical activity doesn't have to be a formal affair. Fun and easy: Physical activity doesn't have to be a formal affair. Parents can keep kids engaged in fun and interesting activities without having to co-participate (although it may be more necessary with younger children). "Neighborhood scavenger hunts offer a means by which children can bike, blade, Razor or run around to find answers to questions (e.g., 'What color is the house at 6522? Which house has the most holiday lawn ornaments?')," Kahan said.
4. Food fixes: Food choices and eating habits often change around the holidays. Rather than depriving children of their favorite holiday food, Kahan suggests encouraging moderation. He also recommends allowing children to help plan and prepare the menu, which could include foods with less fat and higher fiber content, such as crustless pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce made with a sugar substitute. Parents often give children servings that are too large, Kahan said. Reducing portion sizes allows for second helpings, and serving food on smaller plates makes portion sizes seem larger.