How to keep holidays happy AND healthy for kids

AP News
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Posted: Dec 10, 2009 4:09 PM

Worried your kids are going to pack on the pounds over winter break?

Before you cut out the cookies for Santa, pumpkin pie and doughnuts, take a look at these tips from the experts.

MODEL HEALTHY EATING BEHAVIOR: If kids see their parents piling their plates, they will probably do the same, said Dr. Sarah Hampl, medical director of PHIT Kids (Promoting Health in Teens and Kids), a weight management program at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

ADD, DON'T TAKE AWAY: If you have a family tradition of decorating cookies, don't take away that fun, said Susan Z. Yanovski, an obesity expert at the National Institutes of Health. "That doesn't mean you need to leave the cookies out for everyone to nibble on," she said. But you can always give them away.

PLAN PLAN PLAN: Give kids a small healthy snack, such as string cheese or yogurt before going to a holiday party, so they are not ravenous, said Sarah Krieger, a dietitian at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla. She also suggests bringing something healthy to parties like a fruit salad. "People will eat that if it's there."

INCREASE ACTIVITY: Physical activity goes down during the holidays when sports practices and dance and karate lessons are canceled. Fight the temptation to hibernate, said Dr. David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life Program, Children's Hospital Boston. "Now is the time to be more rather than less physically active," he said. Children who are busy are also less likely to rummage through the cupboards or the Halloween candy stash.

GET KIDS INVOLVED: Work with kids to come up with healthier alternatives to the way food is prepared, said Dr. Thomas Robinson of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. Children will feel like they are part of changing the way the family does things. "People's taste and preference are quite malleable."

DON'T RESTRICT: Don't restrict foods, said Dr. Goutham Rao, clinical director of the Weight Management and Wellness Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. It makes the food more valuable. "Help children know that this is a time when you can make healthy choices, even though they are out of school. It's not a time to go crazy."