This is a guest post by the fabulous Joyce Cherrier of freakingfitness.com.
Holidays are a magical time of year filled with family, friends, and food. Lots of food.
As a mom, I find there are two attitudes you can have this time of the year.
You can become the sugar police and every goodie that passes within your eyesight gets the inspection……or you can throw in the towel and figure you have no control over the junk food assault on your family.
I think throwing in the towel is not an option, but I also think becoming militant is not the answer either.
As a consumer you’re bombarded by huge displays in stores. There’s new holiday packaging to make every item seem more inviting and yummy. Every processed food package now comes complete with Santa, his reindeer, and cute snowmen in a woodland scene.
But the crap food is just as crappy in a pretty package. And those packages are extremely attractive to kids. Foods my kids have never noticed before now get noticed.
“Oh look Mom, isn’t this cute! Can we get it?”
“Uh, no honey, Mom still thinks Twinkies are the work of the devil.”
So what’s a health-conscious mom to do?
Here’s some easy ways to keep it healthy without being a Grinch:
Start early: If you’re a fairly new parent you have an advantage. Right from the beginning, you can fill your home with healthy food. Your children will see it as normal. They don’t miss what they have never had. Organic, whole grain, no preservatives, and fruits and vegetables are normal. It is much harder to undue sugar addictions and bad habits later. Start from the first day they’re born. You’ll find you’ll have less battle time than if you wait till later.
Educate: Learn together with your kids what’s in their food. Make label reading a family affair. It does you little good if you bring the food home and then find out it’s chock full of scary ingredients. One solution is the iPhone app Don’t Eat That which gives you info on more than 1900 additives and ingredients and FoodEssential Scanner which can be used to scan bar codes and customize a list. The FoodEssentials Scanner also is available for Blackberry, Android and the iPad. Both are well worth the small cost. My kids love the chance to do anything on a cell phone so it’s a great way to involve them and take advantage of their love of all things technology.
Replace: Making small changes in recipes gives back big in health rewards. You can cut the sugar and bad fats, like certain oils and butter, by 1/3 to ½. Start with cutting out a small amount and adjust accordingly. A great replacement for oil in baked goods is applesauce and prune puree. If a recipe calls for cream cheese, select the lower fat version. Recipes that call for milk or cream can be replaced with the lower fat versions or even nut milks and rice milk. Always choose baking over frying, and use fresh fruit instead of syrups and jellies.
Reward: We have a standing rule in our house that sweets are allowed only on the weekend. It’s been that way for a long time. But if that’s never been a rule in your house and you want to implement it now, you might be met with some serious scorn. A great way to make it more inviting is a reward system. You can use movies, books, and games as rewards for skipping junk during the week. It’s a great way to change a pattern of rewarding kids with sweets for a job well done. Using unhealthy food as a reward can set up a pattern of life-long poor eating habits.
The grocery store can be unhealthy territory to navigate during the holidays but can be easily turned into a great time to create another way to bond with kids and empower them as future savvy consumers. Kids will take an interest in what they eat and, eventually, what they will buy when they have the facts. They’ll learn they have the power to make healthy choices and be a positive voice for change.
This article is part of ConsumerBell’s Food Undressed week, detailing healthy, socially, and environmentally-responsible eating habits and food safety.