Sugar, Chemicals and Trans-Fat, Oh My!
The holiday season is about to start. Our children will soon be wafting in the sweet smell of homemade apple pie, filling their bags with tricks and treats, having visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads, and dumping out holiday stockings filled with care (and lots of candy canes).
Parents everywhere are prepping for sugar meltdowns, chocolate crashes and complaints of upset stomachs.
But if meltdowns and upset stomachs don't sound like joyful fun, then you could start setting some healthy boundaries around what your children eat during this holiday season (and all year round).
Personally -- I'll opt for the later.
We all know that child obesity is an epidemic in our country - but did you know that sugar, processed foods and trans-fat can lead to a multitude of other health problems?
What our kids eat today may lay the groundwork for diabetes, asthma, headaches, irritable bowel disease (IBS), cancer, heart disease, and many more disease to develop later in life.
In fact, those tiny chocolate bars in your child's trick or treat bag are loaded with trans-fat and acrylamides, which are cancer-causing compounds.
We want to help you keep your child happy and healthy, so here are some tips on how to help your child moderate their sugar and fat intake and make healthy decisions this holiday season.
ESTABLISH NEW FAMILY RULES
First, Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page. Conversations around parenting can be difficult because both partners have their own ideas, beliefs and values around parenting. If you want to make a change to your house rules, including, the food your child eats then you need to be clear about why you want to make the change.
When talking to your spouse (and any other caregivers) about this new house rule simply state your new preference to your spouse and then let them know why this is important to you. Make sure to hear your spouse's concerns or objections without defensiveness and ONLY then work towards a solution that you can both enforce.
Once you and your spouse are on the same page - let all family members know about this new change. When you keep the ideas consistent and use them with all your children it is easier to follow through.
CREATE A PLAN
"Changes create stress for a child. If you are limiting sweets, the child could become upset and frustrated, tantrum-ing when sweets and unhealthy foods are not readily available" - Dr. Elise Abromson, Child Psychologist
To make sure you and your family don't fall off the healthy wagon because of incessant tantrums - Dr. Abromson provides the following behavior tips:
- Create a Cool-Off Spot. With the help of your child, create a space where they can go to cool off. This is not a time-out! This is a space provided an option when your child needs to take a break when behaviors seem to be escalating. This space can be created with bean bag chairs, pillows, or blankets and should be in an area where no one else can interfere with the child (it can even be inside a closet- door open of course - or in the corner of the child's room). Leave paper and crayons there so that the child has an outlet to express any emotions or release some energy. "Wreck this Journal" by Kerri Smith is an excellent book to leave in the chill spot to help a child release emotions.
- Reward Good Choices. Reward charts are a good way to keep track of behaviors and provide accountability. When using a chart, have the child put his/her own sticker or check mark on. Sit down and discuss why he/she should or should not receive the point. If he or she does not earn the point, go over what can be done next time to get it. Choose 3 behaviors to start with that are most important to you (e.g., making healthy food decisions). Don't tackle everything!
- Pick reasonable rewards for the end of each week, Make sure it is something you do not accidentally do in the middle of week. For example, if the reward is watching a movie with the family, do not watch a movie in the middle of week, there will be no motivation to continue the appropriate behavior! If you are trying to stop the sugar highs and low, do not reward with sweets!
- Pause/Rewind Method. This gives a child a chance to stop and think and come up with a more appropriate response. If a child talks back, tell them to "pause" and have them walk backwards to "rewind". Then have them try again with a different response. Make this fun by making a pause/rewind remote control with your child!
- Give Them Choices. Tell them what to do, not just what NOT to do. For example, don't simply say they cannot have that piece of candy, instead give them some healthier options. If you tell your child not to do a certain behavior, offer a more appropriate behavior. Only offer one or two suggestions (for example, you cannot talk back to me, but you can say please or let me know you are upset with the choice). Any more than that confuses the issue. Along the same lines, keep it short and sweet! Children do not want to hear an explanation of the choice, just the facts!
BE A GOOD INFLUENCE AND MAKE IT FUN!
- Do as I say not as I do? Good luck with that! Children need to see the behaviors in order to model them. If you tell your child that they need to limit the sugary foods eaten, then it is important for the whole family to model this behavior. Create meals with your children and explain to them what makes this a healthful choice. You aren't just modeling, you are creating better eating habits for life!
- Make it FUN! Create a game around healthy eating. For example, take your children to the grocery store and ask them to pick out a new vegetable or fruit they've never tried. Then challenge them to eat this new food when you get home.
- Cara Via, health-conscious parent and children's book author, has this one nailed down. She was sick and tired of the overabundance of candy given to her children during the holidays - especially Halloween. So she created an adorable and fun character named Halloween Holly. You no longer have to hear your kids fighting over who has the most candy or fall prey to the chocolate induced comas -read the story of Halloween Holly as a family, put out the special candy bowl and watch your kids happily share their extra candy with Halloween Holly - after they pick out 10 of their favorite pieces, of course!
- Donate the Treats. Support the troops and your waste-line by donating all the candy to your local dentist through the Halloween Candy Buyback Program.
GET STARTED NOW!
Helping your child to create new healthy habits around food can be a challenge, but you have all the tools that you need. Remember, it's all about moderation and making one healthy decision at a time. After-all, making this shift in your household will not only help you stay healthy, but could potentially save your child from disease in adulthood.
Here's to a happy & healthy holiday season!