Tips To Help Your Kids With Holiday Eating

5 Tips To Help Your Kids With Holiday Eating

By Cindy Morrison, M.S., CCC-SLP, CLC

Holiday mealtimes have arrived and it’s go time for kids! While many families enjoy relaxed, low pressure holiday meals, others prefer a more formal affair. Regardless of your family’s style, holiday meals with the people that you love are the ultimate gift. As I prepare my children for the tables full of family, friends and lots of mealtime choices ahead, I keep in mind that holiday meals work best when we balance our priorities.

Here are Five Tips To Help Your Kids With Holiday Eating.

#1 – Get the Good Stuff in Early. The excitement of being with family and friends combined with all the holiday decorations and menu changes distracts children from eating well. Start your day right by getting the good stuff in early.  A healthy breakfast such as a vegetable quiche or eggs prepared their favorite way with a side of avocado or your choice of veggies will start the day off right. Knowing that you’ve gotten in healthy foods earlier in the day takes the pressure off of you and your children later, so that you can relax and all enjoy time with family without scrutinizing mealtime choices.

#2 – Pack a few familiar things from home. A big challenge over holidays is that there are a lot of changes. As adults, we love that the best dishes come out and that family is coming together, but for some kids the change to their usual routine can be overwhelming. If you have a younger child, a child with special needs or a picky eater, packing a few familiar items from home can make all the difference. Allowing them to choose a placement, plate, bowl, utensil or cup to bring along can help ease their transition to the table. If you have a child who struggles with mealtimes on ordinary days, it’s okay to serve or pack a familiar food choice to add to their holiday plate. Many children require multiple exposures to new foods before they will feel comfortable eating them. Holiday meals often have food choices that look unfamiliar to children and this can and does cause feeding refusals. Rather than struggle, meet your kids half way and remember that the reason for the meal is really about coming together to be with family.

#3 – Snack attack (avoid the post sugar melt downs). Holiday gatherings are notorious for lots of pre-mealtime snacking. If you’d rather avoid peeling your child off the floor after the sugar-high meltdown, think strategically about their pre-meal snacking. It’s fine to loosen the reigns during the holidays and allow your children to snack. Just keep in mind that as they snack they are filling their calorie needs of the day and it will be normal for them to seem less interested in dinner. Maximize on their interest in snacking by offering a greater amount of healthier snack choices such as dips and veggies than sugary treats!

#4 -Let them know what to expect. Allowing children to see the mealtime foods and the holiday table before it’s time to sit down can make a big difference. Let them see what’s happening in the kitchen. Describe the colors they see and the way the food smells. Take a few walks to the dining room to look at where everyone will sit. Talk about what you see in the room and on the table. Maybe let them help you deliver something there. Taking a few moments to familiarize your children to the meal and the mealtime table while traveling can ease their transition so that everyone can enjoy sitting down to dinner.

#5 – Be flexible. If you notice that your child is struggling or not eating well during a holiday meal it’s important to be flexible instead of strict. Give them a big hug and acknowledge that this meal is different. Talk about what you see: holiday decorations, fancy dishes, and most importantly, family joining together in love and celebration. Teach them about the most important parts of the day, like slowing down to talk, laugh and listen.  Remind them to memorize the faces, the laughs and the smiles of the people you love. Holidays pass by so quickly, so hold onto every moment of your family.

Happy, Healthy Holidays!

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  1. Thanks for your travel tips with small children. All of my siblings have children under the age of four. Their pediatrician says it can be a good idea to keep children distracted while in the car. If your child is entertained and happy, it can help stave off temper tantrums and reduce traveling stress. I also like your idea about making sure that you have healthy snacks to make sure that they aren’t hungry while traveling. It can be easy to give them lots of junk food, but this can backfire and cause tummy troubles. I’ll pass these ideas along to my family.