Santa Claus is magic in a red velvet suit. Only he can get away with being fat without facing consequences. When our stomachs are like a bowl full of jelly, we face health problems, some quite serious. There are ways that you and your kids can enjoy the holiday season without gaining weight.

You may be thinking that you don’t want to ruin the wonder of Christmas for your kids by depriving them of holiday goodies. However, think about what allowing your kids to overindulge does to them. Childhood obesity causes joint pain, high blood pressure, and diabetes, as well as a host of other ailments associated more often with middle-aged adults.

Here are some practical suggestions to keep Christmas fun and merry, while also encouraging your children toward better health. As a bonus gift to you, you might even lose a couple of pounds over the holidays, too.

Walk more.

  • You pile your kids in the back seat of the car and drive slowly around the most decorated neighborhoods in the city, marveling over the well-lit homes and the brightly lit reindeer in the front yard. Sound familiar? Why not walk instead? Park the car at one end of the block and walk with your kids up one side of the street and back on the other. Not only will you get a better look at each of the homes, but you’ll get to enjoy each other’s company more.
  • When you go to the mall, do you drive around and around, looking for the best parking spot? Instead, park in the farthest corner of the lot and walk to the stores. Those few extra steps can burn off quite a few calories.

Eat less.

  • Buy an inexpensive set of small, decorative holiday plates at your local discount store, and use these plates throughout the season. Small plates help you control portion size. You can trick your kids’ eyes into thinking they’re getting a lot more food when you use a small plate. And if the plate is decorated with happy snowmen or kittens in mittens, your kids will get a little thrill when they finish their food, too. Even older kids will enjoy them, though they might not admit it. Once the holidays are over, the family will already be accustomed to smaller plates.
  • By all means, make cookies. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without cookies! But instead of leaving all the cookies in the Cooki Jar on your kitchen counter,  bring most of them to your elderly neighbors and teach them a lesson about the season of giving.
  • Do make a special meal for the holiday. Some of my fondest memories from childhood are of the whole family gathered around the table, enjoying a feast. However, don’t prepare such a large feast that you’re all eating calorie-rich leftovers for the next week. Make one special meal with all the trimmings, and then return to a sensible diet.
  • Kids will be home more than usual because of the long winter breaks from school and the cooler outdoor weather. Quite often, kids will begin to eat out of boredom. If you don’t buy unhealthy snacks, you won’t have to worry about it. Save potato chips and similar snacks as a special once-in-a-while treat. Don’t keep them in your home all the time. It’s a lot easier for you to resist the temptation at the grocery store than for your kids to resist it in your house.
About the Author

Dr. Katalenas

Dr. Katalenas is a pediatrician and owner of The Pediatric Center of Round Rock and the author of the book "The Step Up Diet: From Scratch… The Quality, Quantity, and Timing Solution to Childhood Obesity", a guide to healthy cooking and eating for busy families.