Colourful desserts and junk food may top the list of Christmas must-haves. But do you let the kids have these sweet treats and suffer the aftermath of hyperactive behaviour, irritability and sore tummies? Do you ban all junk and go organic? Or is there some sort of compromise that can not only keep the kids happy but also make it easier on the parents so they too can enjoy the holidays? Here are three sanity-saving tips for parents during the Christmas holiday period:
Tip 1: Substitute junk food containing artificial additives
Swap the main offenders for snacks that are free of fake colours, flavour enhancers and preservatives.
- Favour plain potato chips, plain corn chips, lemonade iceblocks and white lollies such as jelly beans and marshmallows.
- Favour plain rice crackers, natural yoghurt (add your own fresh fruit), plain shortbread biscuits, natural icecream cones with vanilla ice-cream (no colours or preservatives).
- Avoid the bread preservative calcium propionate (282).1 Buy preservative-free bread and keep it fresh in the freezer if necessary (it tastes exactly the same once thawed).
- Favour home-made desserts so you can ensure there are no artificial colours and flavours in them (avoid artificially coloured jelly). * Make fresh popcorn and flavour it with honey and butter (not margarine as it contains artificial additives).
- Avoid juice, soft drink, pickles and sauces containing the preservative sodium benzoate (211).2
- Favour water, unpreserved juice, vegetable juice, mineral water and lemonade (unpreserved).
While avoiding artificial additives sounds simple in theory, how do you get your child to embrace these colourless lollies and chips without them hollering for the more ‘fun’ looking food?
USE CLEVER (AND HEALTHY) MARKETING TRICKS…
Don’t tell your child you’re avoiding food colourings this year to prevent them from acting like a little brat in front of Grandma. Say ‘We’re having a fun White Christmas this year. So we need to collect white lollies and chips to decorate the table’. Make a special white party-food area and even make white desserts such as rice pudding or White Christmas. Preferably don’t have coloured junk food anywhere in the house, not even hidden in the cupboard for the grown-ups, as your child will inevitably gravitate towards it or throw a tantrum if you are caught eating it. On the bright side, if you make a big effort with the White Christmas theme it will be something your family will remember for a long time. It may even become a cherished family tradition.
Tip 2: Have healthy snacks on hand
Kids also need nutritious food at Christmas time so your best bet is to make fruits and vegetables really, really convenient and appealing.
- Have delicious summer fruits already washed and ready to eat. Do this straight after the grocery shopping if possible and place them in convenient containers.
- Make a fabulous fruit salad then let your family know it’s ready to eat. * Vegetables are out of sight, out of mind as soon as they’re assigned to the veggie crisper. Instead, straight after the grocery shopping, wash and cut up plenty of vegetable sticks and put these in seethrough Christmas containers.
- Any vegetable stick or fruit can look more appealing if they’re placed in the most dazzling (and seethrough) Christmas container or bowl and given the most convenient place to sit in the fridge or on the kitchen bench or table.
- To grab your child’s attention, always place healthy, prepared food on a refrigerator shelf which is at your child’s eye level or on a table that is within their reach. Healthy food needs to be handier than junk food in order to compete.
HEALTHY ADDITIONS TO THE FESTIVE TABLE INCLUDE:
- Raw, unsalted cashew nuts and almonds. To make them crunchy, roast them in the oven for five minutes.
- Carrot, celery, broccoli and red capsicum sticks served beside a delicious dip. Make your own avocado or hummus dip. Kids may prefer beetroot dip as it looks fun. However, don’t mention the word beetroot, just call it Pink Dip so it sounds fun too. If buying dips, check to see if they are preservative-free.
- Fruit salad.
- Cheese and grainy crackers. * ‘Ants on a White Christmas Log’ (the same as the Ants on a Log recipe on page 138). * Frozen grapes and mango cubes make tasty dessertlike treats. * Make Mango ‘Ice-Cream’ for dessert (see recipe on page 149).
Tip 3: Get crafty
Kids often start requesting junk food when they’re bored so keep them occupied with fun food preparation.
- Make wholegrain sandwiches then give your child a variety of cookie cutters. They can create fun-looking mini sandwiches in shapes such as hearts, dinosaurs and Christmas trees.
- Your child can make Fun Fruit Skewers using grapes, strawberries, pineapple, star fruit and rockmelon. And to keep up the White Christmas theme they can roll the fruit skewers in desiccated coconut. Some kids don’t like coconut so skip this step if necessary.
- Help your child make home-made iceblocks with natural juice but warn them the juice takes more than five hours to freeze.
- Make wholemeal pancakes and get your child to shape them with cookie cutters. Then top them with honey or sugar-free berry jam.
- Kids can get irritable if they’re dehydrated so make sure they drink plenty of water. Make Fun Fruity Water: In the prettiest Christmas cups, half fill with water, then add pre-made fruit juice ice cubes and a Christmas straw. It’s all about the accessories!
- Get your child (aka ‘special helper’) to help set the table. This is especially fun at Christmas time when the decorations are gorgeous. And if you want your child to be helpful in future, make a big, big point of telling everyone what a great job they did setting the table. Point out specifically what they did right and mention how they helped with the fun White Christmas theme. As mentioned earlier, praising your child in front of others will encourage them to repeat the good behaviour.
Also speak to the other parents who are attending the Christmas gathering and conspire to get all the kids eating some veggies, fruit, protein and wholegrains on Christmas day.
Children need to eat healthy food every single day to provide them with the mysterious combination of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytochemicals and essential fatty acids which they need to grow healthy, strong and gorgeous. Have a fantastic Christmas.