Ask the RD: Holiday Nutrition Tips for Kids

Ask the RD: Holiday Nutrition Tips for Kids

Article By: Dominica Dieffenbach, RDN

Dominica is a Registered Dietitian and mom of 2 kiddos currently specializing in the special needs pediatric population. She has over 15 years of experience as an RD, working with a wide variety of patients to provide them with individualized medical nutrition therapy and education.

The holiday season is a special time of the year that we share with friends and family as we enjoy all of the traditions, gatherings, memories, recipes, and of course an abundance of decadent food everywhere we go! Since this magical time only comes around once per year, we should give ourselves the opportunity to celebrate the dishes that help us reminisce and carry on traditions, all while balancing healthy, nutrient-rich foods as well! “Moderation” is a dietitian’s favorite word, and in today's article, we'll discuss ways to balance the not-so-healthy holiday splurges with healthier options.

1) Consider the effects of a child's diet on oral health & immunity.

We often hear about the dreaded weight gain that happens for many adults during the holiday season, but kids are not exempt from unintentional weight gain brought on by a longer break from school filled with extra video game time and more indulgent snacks laying around. Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States, putting children and adolescents at risk for all the associated complications such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, muscle and joint problems, fatty liver disease, low self-esteem, and bullying.

Children who are obese are also at risk for vitamin and mineral deficiencies due to the high intake of processed foods that offer little nutritional value. Even for kiddos with a healthy weight, the increased consumption of sugary treats during the holidays can wreak havoc on teeth and decrease immune system function heading into cold and flu season.

2) Incorporate the 80:20 rule.

The 80:20 rule can also double as a math lesson for kids! Stay focused on serving and eating whole, unprocessed foods 80% of the time, which leaves 20% of the time to indulge in some of those holiday favorites. When faced with a variety of holiday treats, take a moment to survey options. Choose only those items you love the most and forgo the things that aren’t as special. A diet too high in processed foods and refined sugars and low in fruits and vegetables can promote disturbances in the gut microbiome and associated immune suppression.

More than half of the cells that create antibodies for fighting sickness are in the intestines. A great way to promote a healthy gut and immune system can be to include foods that are naturally rich in probiotics such as kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, and pickles. Weekly meal planning and grocery shopping to make sure the house is stocked with plenty of fruits, veggies, lean proteins, nuts, whole grains, and unsweetened dairy products will go a long way towards reaching that 80% healthy intake goal. Failing to plan, is planning to fail!

3) Stick to a mealtime schedule, even during the holiday break.

During the weekends and when kids are on holiday break, try to stick to a similar snack and mealtime schedule that kids have while they are in school. This will prevent continuous grazing, which can negatively affect kids who are picky eaters or have a poor appetite, and for others can lead to an excess intake of calories which might not be desired. Also avoid skipping meals to save room for more indulgent foods later, as this can often lead to overeating. Instead, before heading out to a party, have a small snack balanced with carbs, protein, and fat (such as "ants on a log" with raisins and peanut butter on celery sticks).

4) Swap sweet treats & sugar-filled gummy vitamins for other options.

Sugar can lead to the buildup of bacteria on teeth, which in turn can lead to tooth decay. Certain sweets that kids tend to gravitate towards such as lollipops, hard candies, and jellybeans are even worse than other treats because they stay in the mouth for longer periods of time.

Gummy multivitamins are also high in added sugars and tend to stick to the teeth... So while you may think you are providing your kiddos with the nutrients they need, it could be compromising their dental health. Try the Renzo’s Picky Eater Multi instead, which comes in a dissolvable Melty Tab that won’t stick to teeth. Try swapping cinnamon tea in place of hot cocoa, dark chocolate in place of milk chocolate, baked apples in place of apple pie, and try almond-milk based eggnog which tends to have much less sugar and calories than traditional.

Renzo's Vitamins provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice.

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