Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’


4 Ways to Keep Kids Healthy During the Holidays

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

holiday

While most children eagerly await the start of winter break, the time off from school can present a challenging conundrum to parents: in a season when so many activities are centered around eating and indulging, how can we ensure our kids stay healthy during the holidays?

Unlike summer vacation, there aren’t as many camps and organized activities hosted for kids during the holidays. Plus, it’s easy to get cabin fever inside when the days are short and the weather cold — snacking, watching TV, and browsing our computers becomes much more appealing.

Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to encourage your kids to stay active and healthy; from games they can enjoy on their own, to gifts that encourage physical activity, and fun activities that can involve the entire family. Here are a few ideas to get you and your kids started.

1. Wrapping Paper Soccer

This is a creative way to use the leftover gift wrap paper after everyone has opened their presents. Have each child make a small paper ball out of wrapping paper and tape. On cue, have players dribble their own ball around the game area (your living room, for example), and try to kick the ball between another player’s feet (the wrapping paper goalie). You earn a point every time you get the paper ball through the person’s feet. Check out our lesson plan for this game, including a number of additional exercises you can try to make this fun activity even more physical.

2. Go for a Walk

What better way to appreciate holiday family time than heading outside together?

Taking a walk is an easy and inexpensive way to get kids to put down their devices, and leave the house. If you live in a location that has snow, bundle up the kids and head out with a toboggan. Challenge kids to pull one another, dive from the toboggan, and run to jump in again. The snow acts as extra cushioning, so children can leap and fall more than they’d be able to in the summer months.

If the idea of a simple walk isn’t enticing enough to hold their attention, try setting up a scavenger hunt in your neighborhood featuring holiday themed items such as candy canes, strands of lights, and Santa hats. Or, save your stroll for the evening when you can explore the neighborhood as a family, and select your favorite displays of Christmas lights.

Going for a walk can even be as simple as bringing children along to the mall, while you do your holiday shopping. Anything that gets them on their feet and moving is great for their physical and mental health.

3. Toys Alive

There’s a famous scene in the classic Christmas ballet The Nutcracker, in which the Nutcracker leads his army of toy soldiers into a fierce battle against the Mouse King and his rodent army. Toys Alive is a fun and silly game inspired by that scene.

Set out a large play area (this could be your backyard) and have players scatter themselves. In this game, all players pretend to be toys that have come to life, moving around the play area — until someone yells “freeze!” When you hear this word, the players must hold whatever position they’re in for three seconds, until that same person unfreezes them and allows them to move freely once more. This game is great for young kids, as it helps them build their control and balance skills, there are no winners and losers, and there are sure to be plenty of laughs.

4. Paper Plate Aerobics

Too cold to go outside? You can mimic winter sports with just a little bit of imagination, and a set of paper plates.

This activity is called Paper Plate Aerobics, and it involves children shuffling and sliding along the floor, while standing on a plate. Kids can “skate” on their paper plates by sliding one foot at a time forward in a diagonal motion. Encourage them to lean forward into the movement, and hold their hands behind their backs like a classic skater.

Likewise, children can use paper plates to pretend they’re cross country skiing. Standing again on the plates, have your kids try to imitate the movements of a skier — alternating sliding their feet forward and backward, with their arms moving in the opposite direction.

To make each of these activities more fun, pull up a YouTube video of someone skiing or skating, so the kids can keep up with their movements, and pretend they’re skiing in the mountains or in the winter Olympics.

5 Dishes to Consider Removing From Your Holiday Dinner Plans

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

holiday dinner

Holiday seasons are the perfect time to have fun, bond with family members, and of course, eat. Most people use the holidays as an excuse to ditch their diets in favor of calorie-laden delicacies. After all, Thanksgiving is America’s “Biggest Cheat Day.”

Unfortunately, because of the season and the desire to enjoy the holiday, people tend to overlook the after-effects of gorging themselves on indulgent dishes. Most foods on the holiday dining table, regardless of how tasty they are, are bad for you if eaten mindlessly. The problems compound if you normally follow a strict health-related diet.

Luckily, being conscious with regards to the foods you prepare for your holiday dinner doesn’t mean dishes have to be bland and boring. Healthy options can taste just as good as diet hazards.

If you need some guidance as far as dishes to consider removing from your holiday dinner plans, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s what to cut down on, and how to replace them!

1.Mixed Nuts

Nuts are a favorite snack at every holiday party. They have a lot of health benefits:

  • Rich in Calcium and Vitamin E
  • Good source of folate
  • Contain heart-healthy fats

The problem is not the quality of nuts, but the quantity most people eat. Once you start eating nuts, it’s hard to stop. Most people munch on them until they’re gone. A couple handfuls of nuts can equate to 450 calories with 40 grams of fat.

If you’re not willing to remove nuts from your menu, consider creating a small batch of spiced-nut mix. The preparation will feel more like a treat and less like a snack. By serving spiced-nuts in small bowls, you’ll reduce overall snacking and make sure guests still have room for dinner!

2. Pecan Pie

The problem with nuts runs deep. Pecan pie is a dessert, which automatically gives it the “unhealthy” label. Unfortunately, pecan pie can be a worse dessert choice than others, despite it’s lack of candy coating!

Like other nuts, pecans can be a good source of nutrients, but are calorie bombs in large quantities. When you make a pecan pie, you’re also adding in large quantities of sugar, butter, and corn syrup. Depending on how generously you cut your pie, one slice of pecan pie can contain over 500 calories with 37g of fat and 26g of sugar.

But during the holidays, it seems almost sacrilegious to ditch dessert altogether. You can still have your pecan pie, and eat it too! A few suggestions to make it a little healthier:

  • Give yourself a smaller serving
  • Create a healthier pecan pie with low-fat butter, egg whites, and lighter corn syrup

Alternatively, you can opt for a healthier pie that still fits the season. Apple pie has less than a quarter of the fat per slice of pecan pie, and also offers a serving of fiber thanks to the inclusion of apples!

3. Stuffing

During the holidays, one of the must-have dishes on every table is turkey with a side of stuffing. Just think carefully before getting stuffed with stuffing! The standard preparation can destroy anyone’s diet.

Stuffing consists mainly of bread, butter/margarine, and sausage, and contains about 175 calories per cup. If it contains sausage, stuffing can reach up to 400 calories per cut with 26g of fat.

For a healthy stuffing alternative, substitute whole wheat bread for cornbread, replace sausage with cranberries, or try a gluten-free recipe.

4. Green Bean Casserole

This dish to consider removing from your holiday dinner plans might throw you off a bit. After all, green beans are a vegetable. Aren’t they supposed to be healthy?

On their own, green beans are nutrient-packed greens. It’s the ingredient additions to this classic holiday dish that move it into a different category.

Green bean casserole is calorie-packed, with loads of sodium thanks to cream of mushroom soup, fried onions, butter, and cheese. One serving has at least 230 calories and 500mg of sodium. Incredibly, a full batch has 785 calories and 4,128mg of sodium!

Skip your stretchy pants and make this holiday dish work for you. A lighter preparation of stuffing (with fewer calories and less salt) might include broccoli and water chestnuts.

5. Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Spinach and artichokes are two types of vegetables you probably wouldn’t suspect of being unhealthy. But just like all the other healthy ingredients that have been mentioned, it’s the add-on ingredients that make this one of the dishes to consider removing from your holiday dinner plans.

Spinach and artichoke dip includes large amount of mayonnaise, sour cream, and cream cheese. A half-cup serving is almost 300 calories – and that’s without the chips to pair with it!

Like many of these other holiday favorites, there are healthier ways to prepare this dish. Alternatively, you can reduce your calorie intake with raw veggies to dip, or salsa as a dip alternative.

Did we miss any of the major dishes to consider removing from your holiday dinner plans? We’d love to hear how you’re making the holidays healthy, yet delicious, in the comments below!

The Jekyll and Hyde Holiday Dilemma: How to Prevent Unhealthy Habits

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

holiday eating

The holidays are a time of year to gather round the table, spend time with family — and potentially break every promise you’ve made to yourself to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Who doesn’t love an extra helping? A little more eggnog? You’ll be sure to burn all those calories off during January, right? The truth is, you probably won’t. When you fall out of your good habits, it’s not just the extra calories that get to you; it’s the fatigue and the procrastination that set in from a period of overindulgence.

Half the battle of defeating poor decision-making comes down to identifying your own behavioral tendencies. If you don’t take the time to understand why you’re doing something, you’ll end up with your own personal version of the Jekyll and Hyde dilemma: “Part of me wants to keep up my exercise routine and my low-sugar diet, but the other part of me is saying to skip the treadmill and try some of Aunt Pam’s cookies!”

With a little foresight and advanced planning, you can nip the bad habits early, before your own personal “Mr. Hyde” gets the best of you. Here are some simple things you can do to catch yourself in the moment, and overcome these common holiday bad habits.

Mr. Hyde’s Holiday Mistake: Eating Until You’re Overstuffed

Dr. Jekyll’s Solution: Drink More Water

You should be drinking a healthy amount of water throughout the year, but this is especially important during the holidays. We’re ready to smother everything in gravy and butter. We all want that piece of pie and cobbler, and a few scoops of ice cream. If you’re going to enjoy these indulgences, do one easy thing to help counter that icky overstuffed feeling, and the extra calories. Drink more water.

Have a glass of water for every glass of wine, or beer. Carry your water glass around with you throughout the evening. Consciously try to drink more water during your holiday mingling. Sounds pretty simple, right? You’ll be surprised by how much better you feel. Plus, when your body is well hydrated, you feel less hungry — so, you’ll end up eating less while still satisfying your cravings.

Mr. Hyde’s Holiday Mistake: Overdoing it on the Gravy – or the Pie

Dr. Jekyll’s Solution: Eat Balanced Meals

Imbalance is really at the center of almost all food discomfort (aside from allergies). Even as young children, we learn that no one food group is the best or worst, because our bodies need a balance of all food groups in order to stay healthy. “Macro imbalance” is a technical way of describing how well fats, carbohydrates, and protein in your food are balanced for your body’s needs.

There is a lot of conflicting evidence about how many meals per day are best for you, but all nutritionists agree on one thing: it’s not a great idea to binge on one massive meal, or to eat from entirely one food group. It’s easy to get carried away with extra helpings of your favorite foods, leaving little room on your plate for much else. To help you eat balanced nutritional meals, make a point to grab equal portions of a vegetable dish and lean meat — along with a (smaller) treat to satisfy your sweet tooth. This is a great time to be a role model for your children, and encourage them to mix a balanced variety of foods on their plates, just like you.

Mr. Hyde’s Holiday Mistake: Napping Before (and After) Dinner

Dr. Jekyll’s Solution: Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

New Year’s resolutions are right around the corner, but why wait until January 1st? Now is a great time to get started (or to continue) with some healthy behaviors. Of course, the holiday season isn’t a convenient time to join a CrossFit gym, or a Zumba class. A much easier solution would be to a take a walk in the morning with the family, to socialize and get some cardiovascular activity in; perhaps do the same post-dinner, before you sit down for a nightcap, or some dessert.

Go for a stroll before and after meals, do 10 crunches at night before bed, read your holiday books or magazines on the treadmill — whatever you do, make a point to participate in some form of physical activity every day. Do some power walking laps around the shopping mall, if you like. Regular physical activity will help prevent unintentional overeating, give you more energy throughout the holiday festivities, and pay real dividends for your overall health as you head into the new year.

Mr. Hyde’s Holiday Mistake: Taking a Break from “Everyday Life”

Dr. Jekyll’s Solution: Maintain Your Routine

Other than excess calories — and a propensity for becoming a permanent resident of your couch — what often suffers the most during the holidays is your daily routine. Family comes into town, or perhaps you go out of town to visit them; and like hurricane-force winds, you feel forced to drop all of your usual day-to-day habits.

Maintaining a sense of normalcy is important for both mental and physical well-being; this is especially true if you have children. If you are used to getting up every morning and having a cup of coffee, then do so — even if you’ve got a few extra members around the table, or you have to learn to use Aunt Beth’s new coffee maker. If you are used to taking some alone time to decompress at the beginning or end of your day, schedule the time — even amid the trips to the mall, the extra baking, and the wrapping of presents. Try to keep your children as close to their usual routine as possible. That means getting them to bed at a decent hour, eating meals when you normally would, and not skipping out on your usual bedtime story or afternoon walk around the block. Your family will thank you; your mental health will thank you too.

4 Ways to Avoid Halloween Candy Overload

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

With Halloween just a week away, kids and parents are gearing up for the spooky festivities and sugary gorge-fest. It’s not only children who become increasingly excited as the end of October looms near—retailers and manufactures are also preparing for a big Halloween sales. The National Retail Federation estimates total Halloween spending in the U.S. to reach $6.9 billion. Of that spend, $2.08 billion is expected to be on candy alone, proof that we in the United States take our yearly Halloween candy binging rites seriously.

For kids, the goal is simple: visit as many houses as possible, filling up a giant knapsack with the largest amount of candy that you can manage to carry. Parents, on the other hand, have things a bit more complicated when it comes to Halloween. Yes, making sure your kids have a wonderful, memorable Halloween experience is important, as is keeping them safe while they are out there trick-or-treating.

What is also important is trying to curtail the ongoing consumption of tooth-rotting sweets that can last for weeks, or even months, after Halloween has come and gone. Not only is managing children’s candy intake necessary to avoid cavities, belly aches, hyperactivity, and future health issues—it’s also essential to avoid the inevitable glucose crash that follows an assault on the trove of Halloween riches.

So how do you go about helping your kids avoid the adverse affects of binging on Halloween candy? After all, they are sure to be up to their eyeballs in candy at every turn: at home, at school, and out in public. To start, it’s best to lay out a few ground rules: how much they’ll be allowed to eat and how much will be donated, saved for later, or set aside for ‘inspection’ by Mom and Dad. In addition to establishing rules, here are a few more ideas to help avoid Halloween candy crash.

1. Have Healthy Snacks on Hand

In the days following Halloween, it’s easy for kids to reach for that pillow case bulging with candy when they need a snack. One way to avoid this is to make sure you have other, healthier snack options readily available. While choosing a carrot over a chocolate bar isn’t likely to be your child’s first instinct, providing them with healthier food options—and helping them make the right choice—is key to avoiding candy binging. It helps make their Halloween candy stash last longer too.

2. A Little Goes a Long Way

Instead of giving your kids free reign over the now-overflowing candy jar, restrict candy intake to a few, or even better, one, piece of candy each day. To children, this might seem like a drag, but one way to make the process go more smoothly is to make a small ‘event’ out of it. Establish a set time each day, and encourage your kids to choose their daily candy very carefully. Tell them to eat their candy slowly and enjoy it rather than shove the entire thing in their mouth before running off. If you can manage to slow the process down enough, you will effectively bypass binge candy eating, while also teaching your kids the importance of savoring their food to avoid overeating and increase satisfaction and appreciation of food and treats.

3. One for Me, One for You

After the trick-or-treating has been completed, sit down with your children and take inventory of what they’ve managed to bring home. With all of the candy laid out, tell them that they need to decide which candy to keep, and which to set aside. In this way, you are allowing kids a certain level of control over selecting their favorites, but also cutting their candy total in half. Once they have chosen the candy they will keep for themselves, you can collectively decide what to do with the rest: donate it, share it among friends, or allow Mom and Dad to have some treats of their own.

4. Have a Plan for Leftover Candy

Aside from donating candy to troops overseas, selling it, or giving it away, having a few other ideas in place for leftover Halloween candy is a good idea to ensure it doesn’t go to waste. Of course, you can always freeze some of it, eating it later or using it as an ingredient in a frozen treat. You can also bake certain candies into cakes, use them in trail mixes, or even put them in a gift basket for Christmas. There are a ton of resources to help you with ideas for leftover Halloween candy, some of which even include healthy options!

Good luck managing that candy stash, and have a happy Halloween!

Help Your Family Have a Healthy Holiday Season

Monday, December 13th, 2010

The holiday season is here and with it come Christmas parties, New Year’s celebrations…and food, food, and more food! Not to mention that when the temperatures drop and the sunset comes early, it gets harder and harder to make sure you (and your family) are getting the exercise you need to stay healthy through the holidays.

Keeping up with healthy habits has benefits for your whole body – like helping to avoid holiday weight gain, helping to fend off holiday stress and fatigue, and helping to keep your immune system strong. Many people give up on healthy habits during the holidays but with these tips you can teach your children how to stay healthy during this busy time of year.

Tips for healthy holiday eating:
  • Feed your children – and yourself – a light meal or snack before going to a holiday party. It’s harder to avoid overeating when you’re overly hungry.
  • Set a good example for children by eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains with meals or as snacks.
  • Offer to bring a healthy, low-calorie dish to holiday parties so you’ll know that at least one healthy item will be available.
  • Teach your children to eat smaller portions of food, especially at a buffet, where they may want to try everything. Help them choose the items they want to try the most, and eat a small portion of each.
  • Sodas and other sweet drinks contain a lot of calories and many contain caffeine. For a healthier version of “soda” mix 100% fruit juice with club soda or seltzer.
  • The holiday season can keep you extra busy but try to avoid fast food – it may be handy, but is often high in fat and low in nutrition.
Tips for physical activity:
  • Hula Hoop, Jump Rope: If Rocky can jump rope for hours, it’s got to be good, right? Grab a few hula hoops and jump ropes, clear out one of your rooms, and turn on some fast-paced music. Your kids will love learning new skills, and you’ll love getting their heart rates up! You can even hold a tournament or a competition to make it more interesting.
  • Dance: In First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, she encourages parents and children to get up and dance. Not only can you learn valuable moves on the dance floor, but merely dancing around for an hour can burn upwards of 200 calories! Take a leaf out of Michelle’s book: turn on some holiday music and dance around the house.
  • Active Video Games: Traditional video games, albeit fun and endlessly entertaining, are extremely sedentary activities and should be limited to just an hour or two a week. The new, active video games incorporate fitness, coordination, and even dance skills! Consider Dance Dance Revolution, Wii Bowling, Playstation Move or Xbox Kinect next time your kids want to spend hours in front of the television on a cold or rainy day.
  • The Gift that Keeps Giving: Give gifts that encourage physical activity, like active games or sporting equipment. Santa knows that even the simplest presents, like a ball or hula hoop, help support activity and leave open endless possibilities for fun family games.

Help Your Kids Have a Healthy Holiday Season

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

This week we’re excited to bring you a post by our guest-author, Andrea Hart, RD, CDN.


The holiday season is here and for most of us that means Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas parties, New Year’s celebrations…which means food, food, and more food! Not to mention that with more to pack into our already busy schedules, who has time for exercise?

Keeping up with healthy habits has benefits for your whole body – like helping to avoid holiday weight gain, helping to fend off holiday stress and fatigue, and helping to keep your immune system strong. Many people give up on healthy habits during the holidays but with these tips you can teach your children how to stay healthy during this busy time of year.

Tips for healthy holiday eating:

  • Feed your children – and yourself – a light meal or snack before going to a holiday party. It’s harder to avoid overeating when you’re overly hungry.
  • Set a good example for children by eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains with meals or as snacks.
  • Offer to bring a healthy, low-calorie dish to holiday parties so you’ll know that at least one healthy item will be available.
  • Teach your children to eat smaller portions of food, especially at a buffet, where they may want to try everything. Help them choose the items they want to try the most, and eat a small portion of each.
  • Sodas and other sweet drinks contain a lot of calories and many contain caffeine. For a healthier version of “soda” mix 100% fruit juice with club soda or seltzer.
  • The holiday season can keep you extra busy but try to avoid fast food – it may be handy, but is often high in fat and low in nutrition.

Tips for physical activity:

  • Do fall and winter chores with your kids – raking leaves, shoveling snow
  • Have fun together outside – go for a walk, tumble in the leaves, go sledding, build a snowman
  • Play games outside – soccer, football, Frisbee, catch
  • Go on an active family outing – ice skating, bowling, skiing
  • Limit TV watching – but when you do watch TV, get up and move instead of sitting during commercials
  • Turn on holiday music and dance around the house
  • Give gifts that encourage physical activity, like active games or sporting equipment

Andrea Hart, RD, CDN