Mushroom Wellington
The holidays can bring a lot of fun and happiness to our lives, but also a few extra pounds. Modeling healthy eating for our children is ideal to help them also eat a healthier diet, but with Aunt Gertrude's famous pumpkin pie and Uncle Dorsey's divinity at every family party, how do we do this?

It seems like all healthy eating guides begin with an admonition of moderation. A strict diet can be difficult to maintain, and sometimes a bit of a wobble will result in a diet going off the rails. So instead of dieting, consider healthy holiday eating your goal. If you find yourself getting away from your ideal eating habits, jump back into it with your next meal.

When making your own holiday meals for your family, consider modifying your usual holiday fare to include more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and less sugar. Opt for homemade foods instead of processed foods to have more control over the ingredients. Use Greek yogurt rather than sour cream. There are many recipes online which substitute mashed ripe bananas or applesauce for oils in baked goods. And remember to eat regular portions.

Having children help select and prepare healthy meals means they are much more likely to eat them. Strive to eat a rainbow every day. And though it can be hard to keep children on a regular sleep schedule during the holidays, it is ideal for maintaining overall good health and happy, rested kids.

Exercise is important, too. Just because the weather is cooler doesn't mean we can't get outdoors and go for an after-dinner walk, especially through the neighborhood to see holiday decorations. In inclement weather, an obstacle course in the living room or a family game of Twister gets everyone active.

Consider bringing a healthy dish to a holiday party. One key to not binging at potlucks or parties is eating regular meals throughout the day (which also helps to keep blood sugar in check), rather than skipping meals to save up for a feast. If a dinner is later than your usual time, go ahead and have a small snack and eat a little less when dinner is served. It's especially important for children to have regular meals or snacks to avoid hangry holiday meltdowns. Fruit can help stave off sugar cravings.

If you host a holiday get-together and would like to include your vegan and vegetarian friends and family, consider substituting dishes with animal products (meat, dairy, eggs, honey) with plant-based ingredients. Thankfully, these are widely available these days. This can make a traditional holiday meal friendly to those with plant-based diets. Consider listing ingredients along with dishes or a marker that indicates a dish is vegetarian or vegan.

Christina Huntzinger, a Springfield-area mom with a vegan family, says, "Sometimes thinking outside the box can be interesting, tasty and even healthier. So instead of just slapping a big old Tofurkey on the table and calling it a day, you can make new recipes – not based on soy meats – the tradition. For example, a lentil loaf, stuffed acorn squash or a mushroom wellington for the main dish."

Having children with severe allergies can make holiday parties extremely tricky. A simple bowl of peanut M&Ms set out for snacks can result in a child having a severe allergic reaction, necessitating emergency care. One general guideline for safe holiday parties is to just avoid nuts altogether, as these allergies are the most dangerous when it comes to reactions.

If you'd like to include families with severe allergies in your holiday celebrations, considering including them in the planning stages and ask them to bring a dish to share. Above all, be respectful and don't argue about someone's allergy. Many parents have been on the receiving end of the assertion that "your child cannot possibly be allergic to x." Trust that a parent knows best what their child is and is not allergic to. An allergy is not a lifestyle preference, but rather a medical need. Parents, of course, should keep an epi pen available at all times if they do take children with severe allergies to holiday get-togethers.

As many of us transition from the indulgent holidays we celebrated as children to ones we celebrate now as health-conscious adults, we take pride in reinventing our family traditions and celebrations.

Carey Smith's holiday plans include focusing on comfort rather than festivities.

Carey Smith

In addition to freelance writing, Carey Smith also manages the Enos Park Neighborhood Gardens. She's a big fan of trees, prairies, board and card games, her family, and assorted nerd-out topics like soil science, archaeology and systems thinking. She loves living in the Enos Park neighborhood.

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