The holidays are a time of celebration and indulgence. When it comes to the kids, though, the temptation to overindulge can be challenging for them to resist. This is evidenced by uptake on calorie count come holidays. During Christmas, for example, the average calorie intake shoots up to more than 7,000 calories — far from the healthy recommended daily intake of at least 1,600 to 2,200 calories per day for children between 6 and 12 years of age.
As a parent, it’s essential to be aware of potential problems with binge eating during this time of year so that you can take steps to prevent or manage any unhealthy eating habits in your kids. Let’s break down some tips and tricks that you can use.
Be Aware of Triggers
One way to identify an issue with binge eating is to be aware of triggers that could lead your child down this path. Christmas and the holidays often bring about stress or anxiety in children, who may turn to food as comfort. This could lead them into a cycle of overeating where they turn back repeatedly as a coping mechanism for their emotions. You should also be mindful if your child has recently experienced any significant change—such as starting at a new school or moving house—as these events can also trigger an unhealthy relationship with food.
Children are aware and sensitive to their environment, too. Aside from overeating, they could also be stressed by what happens around them. For most children, common triggers for stress during the holidays may include:
- being exposed to adults stressing over holiday finances
- grief during the holidays
- hassles in traveling long distances
- their wishes not being fulfilled
Engage in Social Eating
You can help prevent your children from overindulging by eating socially with them. This means sitting down together at meal times and setting limits on how much they can eat. Having open conversations about why it’s important not to overeat will help your kids understand what healthy portion sizes look like and how you should respect your body and its needs. For example, explain that the body only needs specific amounts of food for energy and nutrient intake; anything more than that is considered overdoing.
This type of open approach works wonders for your child’s health, both physical and mental. Aside from reinforcing healthy eating habits, studies show that open communication also adds to positive mental hygiene for parents and kids.
Meal Plan Ahead
When planning meals for the holiday season, ensure you include plenty of nutritious foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products while reducing sugary snacks and processed foods. Taking the time out to meal plan ahead will ensure that healthy options are always available when cravings strike during the holidays instead of reaching for less nutritious alternatives like chips or candy bars. In addition, meal planning helps maintain healthy eating habits and minimizes the extra time, effort, and money that goes into the food budget during the holidays.
- Inventory what you have before you prepare a shopping list or head to the grocery store. You won’t end up with duplicate food that may go bad, especially if you plan far ahead.
- One of the best ways to save time when cooking is by using shortcuts such as pre-chopped vegetables or pre-cooked meats like chicken breast strips or ground beef crumbles.
- Setting aside time each week to plan your meals will save you time and stress in the long run. Spend 30 minutes or so creating a detailed meal plan with recipes and grocery lists. You can even have the kids participate in these meal-planning sessions to get their input.
For the kids, scheduling regular mealtimes throughout the day will provide structure, especially for those who struggle with overeating due to boredom or lack of routine.
Seek Professional Help
When managing children’s eating habits, many parents feel overwhelmed and unsure how to address the issue. If your child continues to struggle with overeating during the holiday season, it might be time to seek professional help.
A health professional like a nutritionist or dietitian can help create an individualized plan for your household during the holiday season to support your child’s healthy eating habits and help prevent overeating. Additionally, to burn those excess calories, there are reliable physical therapy services that cater specifically to children.
One such service is an intensive physiotherapy program. Although its primary focus is medical — such as post-surgery rehabilitation or dealing with motor and neurological issues, the program can also be designed to provide children with intensive routines and exercises that will likely shed those excess calories, along with other health-related improvements like better mobility, coordination, and balance.
The temptation for kids to overindulge during Christmas and other holidays is real—but so are strategies like meal planning ahead, being aware of triggers, and engaging in social eating, which can help parents manage any potential issues with binge eating in their children effectively this holiday season! With proper knowledge about healthy portion sizes, nutrition information, and consistent communication between parents and kids about why moderation is essential in food consumption, parents can create an atmosphere where everyone enjoys their holiday treats without taking things too far!