Holiday Nutritional Guidance

Holiday Nutritional Guidance

The holiday season is a great time of year, full of celebrations.  All of those class parties, office gatherings, and family events usually mean one thing – – lots of food.  Many of us look forward to special treats or seasonal goodies this time of year.  We want to indulge and enjoy, and that is part of the joy of the season.  Here are a few ideas for managing our nutritional eating over the holiday that can be implemented both in the classroom and at home. 

  • Moderation is most important.  Don’t eliminate holiday sweets entirely or you’ll feel like you are missing out.  Have a little bit of the best or most special items.  Think about total intake and the variety of items offered.  Instead of everyone bringing in baked goods or snack foods, it is a good idea to assign just a few people to bring these items to the party, and the others to provide fruit, vegetables, or other healthier dishes.  Remember too, that not everyone has to bring in something for every event.  There are plenty of opportunities for each child to have a turn.
  • Select once a year foods and make them count.  Potato pancakes, gingerbread, eggnog, pumpkin pie – they are all treats that taste best when we have them at holiday time.  So serve these treats now instead of the same old cupcakes or cookies, enjoy them, and then say goodbye for another year. 
  • Choose foods with benefits.  Pumpkin pie or chocolate layer cake?  Both have fat and lots of calories, but the pumpkin pie contains vitamin A and beta-carotene which we need for healthy vision.  Make choices based on the additional benefits of the ingredients in a food.
  • Consider substitutions.  Replace full fat milk, sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, and yogurt with low fat options and your recipes will work just as well.  Put a dollop of low fat vanilla yogurt on your slice of pumpkin pie instead of whipped cream.  Replace up to half of the oil or melted butter in cakes and muffins with applesauce.  These and other small switches will cut a lot of calories and add nutrients.
  • Incorporate exercise.  During this season of eating, it is important to remember to keep moving.  Whether a classroom party or a family gathering, incorporate some physical activity into the event.  Play tag, go for a walk, or just put on some music and dance together – all burn calories and keep you moving.
  • Don’t forget your fruits and veggies.  Instead of chips or cheese and crackers to munch on, serve cut veggies with a low fat creamy dip, guacamole, or hummus.  A platter of cut fruit or fruit kebabs is a lighter option for a class party and makes a perfect dessert after a heavy holiday meal.  Make sure that you offer lots of vegetable dishes alongside your family’s favorite entrée as well.

In preparing for our home and school holiday celebrations this year, let’s try to incorporate more variety and healthier options into our food and activities.  Making graham cracker gingerbread houses is a popular classroom activity that we can still do even without the candy.  Use pretzels, dried fruits, raisins, nuts , dry cereal, popcorn, fruit leather strips, dried pasta, or beans as decorations.  Consider using peanut butter and birdseed on houses and putting them out for the birds to enjoy.  Make holiday cookies with an eye towards healthier ingredients – use sweeteners judiciously, eliminate hydrogenated fats (use real butter and oils), and try baking with whole grain flours instead of or replacing some white flour.  

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