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Ho-Ho-Healthy Holidays

(ChesterCountyMoms.com - December 19, 2012)

Ho Ho Healthy'Tis the season of candy canes, cookies, and chocolates galore. You've worked hard all year to keep your family eating healthfully - okay, maybe not the whole year - but December always seems to end on a sour note. The kids are off from school, parties pop up almost every weekend, and festivities at work add to the craziness leaving little time to worry over nutritious meals.

Finding time to eat right while fighting the urge to indulge is hard enough for mom, let alone the whole family. We know it's not easy - that's why we're bringing you these tips to keep your family on track this holiday season. From make-ahead meals to kid-friendly recipes, you'll be able to guide your family through the holidays as easy as pie!

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
You know December is all about the hustle and bustle, so if you can catch a day of normalcy, use it to get ready for the madness that's just around the corner. When planning dinners, double your recipes and store extras in the freezer for easy meals on busy evenings. Try soup, lasagna, or chili to warm you up on a cold night, and relax knowing that another upcoming meal is ready to go.

Another way to prep is to pack snacks for the car. This will help you steer clear of the food court on your holiday shopping sprees and to keep the kids held over until meal time when running errands (instead of making a stop at the drive-though). Grab some whole grain crackers, dried fruit, or nuts for portable options.

Be a Mommy Role Model
Teach your kids to enjoy the treats of the season in moderation. Enjoy something special after a meal, but when the temptation hits you to go back for seconds, use this as a way to show your own self-control. "I'd love another delicious cookie too," you'll tell your little ones, "but let's select something healthier this time." By hearing your reasoning for not overindulging, children understand why you're making the choice - they don't just hear "no."

As a mom, we encourage you to select your words carefully. Try to be positive about healthy choices and not guilty about "pleasure foods." Enjoying fun foods in moderation is great for everyone. It isn't about making yourself or your child feel bad about themselves, but rather feeling good about the smart choices we can make. With that goal in mind, make sure there are healthy options for everyone on the table and within easy reach of little grazers.

Did you know it can take up to 20 minutes for your belly to feel full? Plant this tidbit in your children's heads now, and remind your kids of the time it takes for their tummies to catch up when they claim they're still hungry (and are reaching for three more cookies). It helps to eat slowly, too. Dropping these little lines helps kids be more aware of how digestion physically works and may keep them (and you) from mindlessly eating when there are scrumptious appetizers and desserts calling their names.

Get the Kids in the Kitchen
Without guidance about nutrition, children have a hard time understanding why certain foods are better choices than others. Kim Knipe, RD, LDN, Community Nutrition and Outreach Coordinator at The Chester County Hospital, recognizes the benefits of bringing your kids into the kitchen. "By inviting your children to cook with you," she explains, "you're able to teach them about the ingredients, the cooking process, and where their food comes from. This helps to form healthier eating habits."

Want a healthier holiday recipe to make with your kids? Check out this recipe for Chocolate Fudge Brownie Cookies from KewlBites.com. This website is full of kid-approved recipes - it was created by Reed Alexander, who plays Nevel Papperman on iCarly, so you know they'll be good! Your kids will love to be in the kitchen and enjoy a treat they helped to make.

Even though the holiday season is busier than any other, there are ways to combat the craziness to maintain regular eating habits. We hope that these helpful hints will keep your family afloat in the sea of delectable delicacies that make up the merry month of December.

Happy Holidays from your friends at The Chester County Hospital!

Last Updated: 12/21/2012