If you have kids, the “Christmas Meltdown” is likely a familiar event… Holiday meltdowns have many causes, many of which are out of our control.
However, there is one cause that we can control and that is the amount of sugar that our children consume…
You may be thinking… it’s just one day, it’s Christmas!! I’m all for treats and cookies and desserts, but, what you’ll find is that with moderation and in combination with “real food,” you children will be happier, and ultimately have a better day (and so will you!)
Here are some tips to help cut down on sugar-induced meltdowns on Christmas:
1. Plan a hearty, healthy breakfast, loaded with protein. Since my family cut out cereal in the morning, I’ve noticed that they are much more balanced the whole day. My mom always made a sausage and egg breakfast casserole for Christmas morning. Most breakfast casseroles can be made the night before. Refrigerate overnight, pop it in the oven, and you’ll have a great breakfast ready by the time everyone’s finished unwrapping presents. For other high protein, high fiber, low sugar options, check out my list of cereal alternatives.
2 2. If you typically have candy in the stockings, start the tradition of opening stockings after breakfast. This way, the kids can still enjoy a treat from their stockings, but it won’t be the first thing hitting their stomachs.
3. Don’t leave Christmas cookies and treats out in plain site all day long. We made Christmas cookies a few nights ago. Since they were on a big tray, they didn’t really fit anywhere but on the counter. It seemed like my kids were constantly asking, “Can we have a cookie?” I finally put the cookies in a bag and put them away in the cupboard and this drastically cut down on the requests for cookies.
4. Leave a fruit and/or vegetable tray out on the counter instead… In my family the tendency is to “hang out” in the kitchen all day and pick. If the healthy options are the easiest to access, they will most likely get eaten.
5. Plan for, and encourage, small healthy snacks throughout the day. Don’t try to “save appetites,” for dinner. The hungrier children are, the more cranky they tend to be, and the less likely they will be to make good choices.
6. Help children be aware of how junk food and sugar make them feel. I remember eating tons of candy from my stocking first thing in the morning and then not feeling well. Talk to children about times they may have done this in the past and how they felt. Encourage them to choose one special piece of candy or cookie and discuss when it would be a good time to have another one (such as after dinner.) If they know that another treat is coming, they will look forward to it with anticipation, rather than feeling deprived.
7. Offer fun treats that aren’t necessarily packed with sugar. Try “apple donuts,” or baked “apple donuts.” Dip the bottoms and tops of strawberries with white or dark chocolate and coconut and make “santa hats.” Try a fruit kebeb, make and eat “elf donuts,” or try this fun idea I found on Pintrest- cut celery sticks and give kids a cup of peanut (or other nut) butter and a dish of goldfish cracker and let them “go fishing.”
For more ideas, including how to encourage healthy eating at holiday meals, check out my post, “How to help teach your kids to be better eaters on Thanksgiving.”