Following the holidays, many families find their homes full of leftovers, including cookies, candies, and other sweets. What about the calories and all that sugar? Can this be healthy for your kids?
Ann Meyers, RD, LDN, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, says you can teach your children to stay on the path of healthy eating, without depriving them of sweet treats, by setting positive examples.
Ann shares a few key ways parents can demonstrate these healthy practices.
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Try scheduling some physical activities for the entire family. Or take the kids for walks — it’s a great way to spend some peaceful time with your family. Enjoy a winter activity that your kids like to do, such as skiing, sled riding, or ice skating.
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Don’t Emphasize Meals
While every holiday has some special foods, it also has other traditions that mark the day. The important thing to kids is recognition of the day within their own family. Traditions are what your children will remember years from now, not how many pieces of candy or how many cookies they ate.
Don’t Demonize “Unhealthy” Foods
Control what you bring into your home, because once you have treats in the house, you’ve already given your children the message that these foods are OK to eat. Telling them that they are unhealthy only confuses children, and often increases their desire to overeat.
Defining when and how much your kids can eat lets them know that special foods can be enjoyed occasionally, like the holidays themselves. Your kids will be happy to know that these foods will appear from time to time in your house, just like all the other foods you buy and prepare.
Ann stresses that it is important to remember cutting out certain “bad” foods is not the answer. Parents should highlight a balanced intake that does not exclude any particular food group.
“Undue attention on good foods versus bad foods just sets up our kids for failure, because all foods, in moderation, are good for you,” she says. “Banning treats or making them so ‘healthy’ that they lose their flavor just places undue emphasis on the foods themselves.”
From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh ranks No. 8 on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. All 10 of our specialties rank nationally. UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital is a longtime national leader for women and their newborns. We aim to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond.