We’re deep into the holiday eating season and many parents are ready to throw in the towel. Others are digging in for more of the “healthy eating food” fight. There’s a third option.
It takes skills—you could say healthy holiday habits—to get through the holiday eating season. Kids are NEVER too young to learn. Indeed, getting through big eating events without diving headfirst into the pie may just be more important than learning to eat your veggies. How will your kids learn these skills? Start with some holiday food rules—a.k.a. holiday survival strategies.
Children as young as two can learn to self-regulate! But they can’t learn this skill on their own. (Yes, they still need you!)
Here is the link to an interesting study conducted by researchers at the University at Buffalo (where, I might add, I once worked as a young sociology professor). The bottom line is:
Knowing how to self-regulate isn’t enough. Kids need some food rules so they know how to target their self-regulation.
What is self-regulation at age 2? In this study it was measured as the child’s ability to wait for something. Read Marshmallows Make You Smart! for more on self-regulation.
Now is the time to ask yourself, what holiday food rules do you want your kids to learn?
As readers of INAN you probably know that there are only 3 habits that translate everything you need to know about nutrition into behavior. They’re easy for kids to learn too.
- Proportion: We eat really healthy foods the most. (And by really healthy I don’t mean chicken nuggets.)
- Variety: We eat different foods from meal-to-meal and from day-to-day.
- Moderation: We eat when we’re hungry, and stop when we’re full. And we don’t eat because we’re bored, sad or lonely.
How do the general principles of healthy eating habits translate into holiday food rules? Here are 4:
- On days when there are no parties, there are no treats. (Discuss this as the principle of proportion.)
- When you’re at a party, you can eat whatever you want, but it’s always better to eat the treats you love, rather than the treats that happen to be available. (You’ll have to tell your kids what foods are going to be available and when.) OR…
- You can have X number of treats at the party. You choose which ones and when you’ll have them.
- Pay attention to your tummy. (Discuss this in terms of hunger/fullness…i.e. moderation.)
For more on this topic, read Healthy Eating for the Holidays.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~