Christmastime is here, and with it, all those tempting treats!
Even the healthiest kids are getting excess sugar with all the parties and celebrations going on this time of year.
So why not make some fun and festive Christmas goodies that you don’t have to feel guilty serving your family this season?
Physicians and dieticians recommend that children consume no more than four teaspoons of additional sugar per day.
This is sugar that is not naturally occurring in fruit and other healthier foods, and with all the candies and treats served between Halloween and Christmas, that number skyrockets!
In fact, Parents Magazine reports that the average 4 to 8-year-old child eats around 15 extra teaspoons of sugar a day – a number that is even higher around Christmas.
And according to the American Heart Association, childhood obesity has become the number one concern for parents – over drugs and violence – as one in three American kids under age 18 are overweight or obese.
This epidemic can lead to serious health problems later in life like Type 2 diabetes, heart attack, and an array of other issues.
While we don’t want to be a Scrooge or a Grinch and deny our kids the fun of making (and eating) Christmas cookies or other special treats this season, we do need to help them to make healthy choices.
Moderation is, of course, the most important thing we can teach our kids about healthy eating.
Denying them any type of candy or cookies is likely to backfire and cause them to sneak treats, resent our good intentions, or both.
So this year, try some of these healthy options. The kids can participate in the fun of making healthy goodies for family parties or community celebrations, and you can rest a little easier knowing they are learning good habits.
Making Christmas cookies is probably the most popular family food activity this time of year, but there are many options for making healthier decorated snacks.
So grab those Christmas cookie cutters and get started!
Whole wheat tortillas can be cut into shapes with cookie cutters, brushed with an egg white wash, and dusted with cinnamon or other holiday spices.
Bake them until crispy and golden on a piece of parchment paper and spread your favorite nut or seed butter in between two of the shapes.
Sliced cheese can also be cut with the same cookie cutter shape and wedged between two tortillas for a fun snack.
These shaped tortilla chips are also fun for dipping in homemade salsa and can be spread with avocado or cream cheese. They’re much healthier than store-bought chips and are very versatile.
Kids are often pretty receptive to eating fruit and although it contains sugar, it is natural and far better than eating a tray of Christmas cookies.
Strawberries can be turned into little Santas with piped cream cheese beards and raisins for eyes.
Whole grapes (for the older kids) can also be made into Santas or “Grinches” by cutting the bottom off a whole strawberry for a hat and securing with a toothpick. You can even use a mini marshmallow for a pom-pom on top.
Fruits like pineapple, melon, and kiwi can be cut into shapes with your favorite cookie cutters as well and have multiple uses.
Make a festive and healthier alternative to frosting by mixing whipped cream cheese, a bit of orange juice, reduced sugar dried cranberries, and a bit of cinnamon.
This can be made in the food processor or with a hand mixer and makes a great fruit dip or can be piped onto your fruit shapes like you would with frosting on a Christmas cookie!
Or melt some dark chocolate and dip fruit like bananas or apple slices, or make banana pops by dipping the whole banana in chocolate and putting it in the freezer.
The kids can even roll them in coconut or chopped nuts before putting them in the freezer to harden.
How about making a fun veggie tray for snack time this Christmas?
Celery, cucumber, zucchini, or broccoli can be cut down and plated to resemble a Christmas tree.
Use mini cookie cutters to cut “ornaments” out of colorful bell peppers or sliced cheese and let them decorate the tree before they eat it!
All types of breads and cheeses, along with natural deli meats can be cut into shapes for fun mini sandwiches as well, or you and the kids can get really creative by cutting triangle and square shapes and making your own silly Christmas character sandwiches.
A cherry tomato makes a great Rudolph nose, and olives or raisins can be used for eyes. The fun and possibilities are only limited by their imaginations.
String cheese is a great snack that most kids love, and the wrappers can be decorated with marker and scraps of construction paper to make Santas, snowmen, or reindeer with chenille stem antlers.
Don’t forget to add some wiggly eyes to your cheese stick character, and you’ll be the hit of the kids’ Christmas party at school or in your neighborhood.
We all love hot chocolate at Christmas, but kids also love smoothies. Take some of that fresh fruit, some ice, and your blender and make festive “snowshakes.”
And in place of sugary sodas, try introducing the kids to seltzer water. They love the carbonation and can put pieces of the cut-out fruit inside for flavor.
Citrus fruits work great for this, or you can make fruit skewers to dress up the water and make a fancy beverage.
Fresh fruit can also be cut into small pieces and put into ice cube trays (they even sell Christmas themed trays so you can make snowflake or Santa cubes).
Freeze the cubes and put a few in the seltzer water, or cubes can be made with their favorite juice and put in water as well. They’re getting the flavor without all the extra sugar of several cups of juice a day.
Now, we’re not saying to avoid making traditional Christmas treats with the kids this year, but these ideas will keep them entertained and introduce a new way of thinking about how to make food fun and festive!
And remember, many of your favorite cookie recipes can be made healthier by cutting down on the sugar, using a natural alternative like honey or coconut sugar, or by using whole grain or nut flours in place of refined ones.
Use your imagination and ask the kids to help brainstorm some fun ideas for your food this Christmas season.
Chances are, it will become a fun – and healthy – new Christmas tradition for your family!
(h/t Mommy Underground)