Holiday Party Survival Guide: Teaching Kids to Cope With All the Treats
|December 6, 2012||Posted by Stacy under Food education, Junk food, Parties|
I felt a pit in my own stomach as I stared at my then 6-year-old doubled over in pain. “I think I’m going to throw up,” he said, tears streaming down his face. He wasn’t suffering from the flu, an intestinal blockage or appendicitis. Instead, it was a case of seriously overindulging on junk food at an all-you-can-eat kid’s birthday party.
It didn’t happen because we’re restrictive with food. Our kids have dessert almost every night. While I, of course, favor healthier treats (like dark chocolate and mangoes or these No-Bake Brownie Bites–super-yum!), my husband ensures that they get plenty of Kit Kats and Oreos. Besides, my son wasn’t the only kid to overdo it that day. One of his buddies, who basically lives on highly processed, sugary foods, also ate to the point of bellyache.
No, the sad truth was that my son just didn’t know how to cope with the abundance of chips, candy, soda and cake that stretched the entire length of a picnic table. And that’s because no one had ever taught him. While I hated the thought of him consuming all that junk, I had never actually explained how to handle all-you-can-eat food fests.
One of my favorite feeding experts, Dina Rose, Ph.D. of It’s Not About Nutrition, has great advice on this. So, just in time for the holiday eat-athon, some of her best tips:
Plan for the party A couple days beforehand, tell your child that it’s important to eat extra well for the next few days. Explain that he’ll probably want to have some treats at the party. To compensate, it would be a good idea to skip the sweets for a day or two. (I tested this strategy the night before Halloween, and it worked like a charm—my kids, now ages 7 and 4, happily agreed to forego dessert.).
Prepare a small snack Attempting to stuff your child with healthy food right before the festivities probably won’t stop him from eating too much junk. Chances are, he’ll just double down and end up doubled over (like my son). Instead, give him a small snack—some fresh fruit and Greek yogurt or guacamole and carrot sticks—so he’s not starving but still has enough room to enjoy some party food.
Peruse before picking When faced with a big spread of food, teach your child to look it all over before making his selections. Research from Cornell University found that people who browse the buffet before serving themselves tend to be much leaner than those who start piling up their plates without first considering all the options.
Save room for favorites If you notice your child chowing down on chips, remind him to save some room for other favorite foods that may be down the pike.
Take a to-go plate Tell your child to listen to his tummy. Instead of continuing to eat when he’s full, encourage him to ask for a slice of cake to go. He can eat it at home later or save it for the next day.
Don’t micromanage While at the party, resist the urge to lecture him on the evils of processed junk. Acting like the food police won’t just spoil his fun, it could make the unhealthy stuff even more attractive. Having regular discussions about the types of foods he should be eating most and least is very important, but now isn’t the time. During the festivities, try to relax and let him make his own choices. If he doesn’t make good ones, remember that his overall eating habits are what really matter.
How do you handle events with oodles of junk food? Do you talk to your child about how to cope with treat overload (which doesn’t just happen at holiday time!)? Please leave comments down below. And thanks for visiting!