Here is a cheat sheet to ensure that kids continue to eat healthy through the festive season and you are able to partake the festive spirit without any guilt pangs.
By Amita Bhardwaj
In the festive season, the focus invariably shifts to food, what with the many Diwali and Christmas parties that you would be attending and hosting. The collateral damage of these festivities is often children’s health, as they typically do not exercise restraint in the face of delicious (often sinfully so!) food.
Look for healthy substitutes
While festivities are regarded as the time to splurge and kids would want to eat great food, ensure that you resort to healthy yet delicious substitutes. Homemade whole-wheat pizzas, low calorie dips, interesting fruit salads are only some ideas that will have the children asking for more. Similarly, keeping healthy drinks handy will reduce the urge to reach out to that calorie-filled aerated drink. You could consider freezing fruit juice into fun-shaped ice cubes and see the child relish it. Instead of ordering those deep-fried sweets, you could also consider making sweets at home with fat-free milk and less sugar to keep them healthy. You could also use natural sweeteners such as jiggery, honey, dates, anjeer and more, in place of sugar.
Ensure kids have eaten well before you head out to a party
While the above ideas can work when you are hosting a party at home, you have little control over the menu when you are heading out for a party. Taking care that the kids are not ravenously hungry will ensure that they do not binge on calories. In fact, throughout the festive season, ensure that the children follow a regular schedule with three meals. The importance of breakfast particularly cannot be overstated. Also, as far as possible, see that they avoid late night eating. In fact, sticking to bedtime schedules as much as possible will also ensure that they do not substitute sleep with food.
Keep them hydrated
With there being a whole lot of snacking during the festival season, ensure that the children are kept well hydrated. In fact, drinking enough water will also ensure that they feel full and do not binge unnecessarily. Also encourage children to eat food slowly and mindfully, not only so that they relish it fully but also so that they have time to process the signals that indicate that they are feeling full.
Do not store excess sweets and chocolates at home
Sure, you want to be well prepared for the steady stream of visitors during the festive season but try and avoid stocking high calorie stuff in large quantities and raising temptation. Instead, look for healthier alternatives—dry fruits over deep fried sweets, for example.
Make the festive season more about traditions and togetherness
Let’s face it, most festivals turn out to be a lot about food. Whether it is mithai boxes on Diwali or sumptuous cakes on Christmas. Instead, try and shift the focus of the festivities to traditions, to togetherness, to activities rather than focus too much on the gastronomical aspect of it. Of course, this does not by any stretch of the imagination mean that festivities should mean starving ourselves—certainly not! It just means that food should be a part of the fun without it becoming something around which everything else revolves. Indulge kids with your time and attention rather than calorie-rich food and see the festival take on a whole new hue.
Be a role model
This one might sound like a toughie, but the fact is that children learn more from what you show them versus what you tell them to do. Your own relationship with food during the festive season will therefore speak volumes. Stick to healthy food and see your little ones follow suit. It is also important to teach them the benefit of small portion sizes especially when there is a lot of variety. You could encourage this by having small plates handy so there is less temptation to fill up and overdo the calories.
Here’s to a happy, healthy festive season!
(The writer is VP-Curriculum, Footprints Childcare, a national chain of playschools & daycare)