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Smart Food: Making Good Food Decisions During the Holidays

Each year, the holiday season arrives accompanied by lots of parties and celebrations, family traditions, and almost certainly: plenty of food – and, it is often not the healthiest! Of course it’s fine to enjoy those special foods and treats annually, but many gain weight due to over-indulging continuously from Thanksgiving through the New Year. The happy memories of love, connection, kindness, and gratitude the holidays provide can last a lifetime. Unfortunately, those memories can also be linked to food particularly baked goods and sweet treats. We don’t want our children thinking that love always means food. Let’s remind them that love also equals fun and family connections while also providing the healthiest food possible and maintaining those family traditions.

So what can we do to make things a little healthier while still enjoying the traditions we want to uphold? A few changes can make a big difference. Here are some ideas and easy swaps that can help you and your family enjoy all of the fun of the holiday season without overly indulging or being food-focused.

  • Bake those cookies! Make the cookies you enjoy - and then give them away. Find a local senior citizen’s home, homeless shelter, or police or fire department that would welcome your freshly baked goods. This way, you have the fun – and the lasting memories connecting in the kitchen – without all the cookies piling up around your house or waistline! And an additional benefit is the incredible feeling you receive in return when you express gratitude and kindness toward others.
  • Look at the lights! You don’t have to celebrate Christmas to enjoy the amazing spectacles that adorn the surrounding neighborhoods.  Instead of driving around to take in the scenes, park the car and walk. Like the electric glow, the fresh cool fresh air is energizing. Maybe, you can even pass out some of those fresh baked cookies.
  • A holiday grocery bag full of healthy foods. Make your own treats healthier! Simple substitutions or altering the amount of flour, sugar and fat are possible without sacrificing flavor. Replace half of all purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour; cut sugar in half and/or substitute with applesauce or other fruit puree; and replace all or some of the butter, oil, or margarine with applesauce, canned pumpkin or black beans (yes it’s possible and really tasty—do a quick search!), and intensify sweetness and flavor with holiday spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Create your own DIY treats like this homemade hot chocolate recipe: 1 cup of low-fat milk, 2 tsp cocoa power, and 1-2 tsp sugar.  It tastes great, contains less sugar than the packaged varieties, and makes a great drink after that stroll you just took viewing holiday lights. 
  • Start new, active traditions! Get moving after those big meals and holiday gatherings with some fun activities: go for a family hike, play a game of touch football instead of sitting on the couch and watching it—heck the Patriots aren’t playing anyway!, go ice skating, pick your favorite holiday tune and start dancing! Whatever it is, do it together to create new, lasting memories.
  • Remember it’s a holiDAY not a holiMONTH! Enjoy your favorite treats and don’t feel guilty about it, just don’t do it all month long and instead aim to make the lasting memories about the connection experienced with loved ones and showing kindness, gratitude, giving and being thankful for the bounty that we are fortunate to have—the true meaning of the holiday season. 

 Learn more about the Center for Youth Wellness at Floating Hospital for Children >

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