Many children (as well as adults) tend to gain weight during holidays and vacations. On a weeklong trip to the beach, for example, families often let their nutrition and activity routines take a back seat to the events of the day. That’s why it’s helpful to think ahead and do some preparation before a vacation. Can the entire family agree to continue your healthy eating during your trip? Can you schedule some physical activity into your vacation, whether it’s walking through the amusement park or swimming in the hotel pool? When you’re on a trip, you shouldn’t take a vacation from proper eating and exercise.
During holidays and other special occasions, don’t lose sight of what your child is eating. Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations often last for much of December, with plenty of candy and cakes offering one temptation after another. In fact, for many families, the preoccupation with food extends from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. No wonder you need to approach this time of year with extra care.
So how should you deal with the holidays? You certainly don’t want to deprive your child of the celebrations. All of us, children and adults alike need these kinds of celebrations in our lives. But celebrate the day, not the entire month! Your child can enjoy the holiday, departing from her nutritional plan for just a day, and then go back to her plan for healthy eating.
The same is true for birthday parties, other religious holidays, and Halloween. If your child is invited to a friend’s birthday party, she can certainly have some ice cream and cake. But remind her to take only one helping of the treat. On Easter Sunday, for example, she can have a little candy, but fill up most of her Easter basket with inexpensive toys, and don’t make Easter a 2-week celebration overflowing with sugar-laden goodies. On Halloween, let your child trick or treat, but then suggest that she sell the candy to you for a negotiated amount. She’ll get a few dollars, and you can dispose of the candy. Most children think that’s a pretty good deal—besides, if the candy were to stay in the house instead, you just know someone would eat it! The key is to incorporate these occasions as parts of the family routine along with the family’s day-to-day nutrition and activity patterns.
Now, what about other types of family gatherings? In some cultures, when extended families get together, it can turn into an absolute food feast, lasting from breakfast until the last light goes out after dark. Of course, extended families are important, but does your child really need to have huge helpings of food whenever you go over to her favorite uncle’s house? In fact, it’s important to think moderation when you’re at relatives’ homes. Family members—grandparents, aunts, and uncles—can have an enormous effect on your child’s health. Invite them to support her in her journey toward better health. Let them know that you’d like them to become part of your child’s health team.