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Taming the Holiday "Gimmes

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While it is okay to bend the food rules occasionally, there needs to be a balance that sets limits and keeps health in mind. An over-consumption of white sugar and high fat foods is linked to many childhood health problems, including obesity, dental decay, immune system suppression, behavioural issues, and vitamin/mineral deficiencies.

"Please, can I have another cookie, Mom?" During the season of candy, eggnog, and cookies, children often have a "gimme more" attitude when it comes to eating sugary treats.

With all the advertising that targets their age group, it's no wonder they desire every heavily marketed food, toy, and electronic device.

While it is okay to bend the food rules occasionally, there needs to be a balance that sets limits and keeps health in mind. An over-consumption of white sugar and high fat foods is linked to many childhood health problems, including obesity, dental decay, immune system suppression, behavioural issues, and vitamin/mineral deficiencies.

Avoiding Holiday Excess

During the holiday season, the desire for sugar reaches an all-time high, with children wanting to gobble up every cookie, cake, or chocolate they see. While I don't recommend restricting sugar completely from your child's diet it's unrealistic and will only make them want it more I urge parents to use natural sweeteners and foods that offer the same tempting tastes. Luckily, this holiday season, you can find healthier, kid-friendly options that offer nutritional value and satisfy a child's sweet tooth at the same time.

For example:

  • When baking, use date, barley, or rice sweeteners, which contain more vitamins, minerals, and other trace nutrients than white sugar. These all-purpose sweeteners can be used for baking, cooking, and hot drinks.
  • Use sweet spices, such as vanilla and almond extracts, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and allspice, to add flavour to cookies.
  • For pie fillings, cobblers, and crisps, use soaked, pureed, or dried fruit for sweetness instead of adding white sugar.
  • Keep berries, apples, pineapples, and pears cut up for healthy and sweet "grabbables" for kids. You can also drizzle dark chocolate (minimum 70- percent cocoa solids) over the top for an extra sweet treat.

Setting Limits

Although at times it may seem difficult to say no to your little angels, setting boundaries and teaching limits also offers valuable life-long lessons. When arriving at your holiday event, explain to your children that they are allowed a set number of their favorite treats and no more so they understand the limits from the start.

Healthy eating is every child's right. While it is okay to indulge once in a while, offering healthier options, making food fun, and setting boundaries will keep the entire family healthy and happy for the New Year.

A majority of Canadian children are being over-fed and undernourished. In terms of childhood food patterns, research demonstrates the following:

  • Fried potatoes account for between 25 and 50 percent of all vegetables consumed by children. Consumption of non-potato vegetables has decreased in the last 25 years.
  • Each 12-oz (355-mL) serving of a carbonated, sweetened soft drink contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons (49 mL) of sugar and 150 calories. Sweetened drinks are the largest source of added sugar in the daily diets of US children.
  • Consuming one 12-oz (355-mL) sweetened soft drink per day increases a child's risk of obesity by 60 percent.

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