Cookies, candy canes, fudge and eggnog, oh my! Everywhere we
turn this time of year, we're faced with temptations. As every
parent knows, it's a more indulgent time for children, as well.
While they have more caloric leeway than we do-and more opportunity
to burn it off-some children gain weight during the holidays.
Research published last year in the Journal of Clinical Medical
Research suggests elementary school-aged children can gain weight
over the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Not
surprisingly, those who are already overweight are more
A 2000 study on adults published in the New England Journal of
Medicine came to a similar conclusion. It found they gained an
average of 0.8 pounds during the holiday period of mid-November
through mid-January. Those who were overweight gained significantly
more weight, with 14 percent gaining more than five pounds.
Realistically, the "eating season" stretches much longer than
six weeks. It starts in mid-October when people start stockpiling
candy for trick-or-treating and usually ends when the kids head
back to school in early January. Some people say it lasts until
Super Bowl Sunday.
"Anyone is susceptible to weight gain and, even more
importantly, to developing unhealthy eating habits if they allow
the holidays to bleed into one another," explains Sally Kuzemchak,
a dietitian and mother of two in Columbus, Ohio, who blogs at
realmomnutrition.com. "After weeks of having treats around, kids
and grown-ups expect these kinds of foods daily. Instead of being
'sometimes foods' they become 'all-the-time foods.'"
Burning those extra sugar plum calories is also important. Enjoy
physical activities with your children, such as snowball fights,
sledding, building snowmen, as well as walks during a snowfall.
Even shoveling can be fun if you make it.
"Between me and my brother, we have four little boys-so staying
inside isn't really an option," Kuzemchak says. "After the big
holiday meal, we often end up going outside to play football or
taking a walk through the woods. Yes, it's cold and every fiber of
my being wants to stay inside and eat cookies. But once we're out,
I'm always glad we did it."
Plus, she says, it's good for everyone's mental health.
Holidays are about making memories, which include enjoying
delectable foods. So make the traditional once-a-year dishes. Bake
the pies and cookies. Use butter and cream and other ingredients
that make those once-a-year foods so special.
As Kuzemchak admits, "I actually let my kids have free rein on
those days. We have family parties with tons of food and I'm not
about to police them at the buffet table. But that's ONE day. I try
my very hardest to get everyone back on track the next day."
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a nutritionist living in Naperville.
See more of Christine's stories here.
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