Make it a Healthy Holiday Season for KidsNo matter how your family observes the holidays, tasty treats are likely to be a part of the celebration.
For parents and school nutrition staff who work hard all year to feed children healthy, nutritious meals, the holiday season can be a challenge. On one hand, food traditions and culture can provide wonderful experiences and memories for children. On the other, many of the treats brought into classrooms this time of year are sugar-laden and full of empty calories.
Luckily, the school environment this season is different. There are new guidelines for foods called “smart snacks” that are sold in schools. The guidelines were developed by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and are based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and standards provided by schools nationally.
The guidelines are designed to improve consumption of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy and to instill healthy habits. While they don’t regulate treats that parents and families can bring into classrooms for celebrations, they do set some standards to help parents determine what a good snack would be for their child to bring to school.
Here are some tips for parents based on the USDA “smart snacks” guidelines that will let kids enjoy the holidays while not overdoing it on sweet treats.
--Fresh fruits and vegetables are always a great option and dried fruits and canned fruits in their own juice are also healthy choices. Some examples are baby carrots, individual grape clusters, celery sticks, applesauce cups, and raisins or dried cranberries.
--If you are providing a beverage, water, low-fat milk, and 100% juice served in 8- to 12-ounce cups are the preferred selections.
--Remember, limiting added sugars and sodium is also important. Avoid providing cookies, candy and cakes--or provide them in moderation.
--If you’re looking for pre-packaged items, choose treats with 200 calories or less per serving that also incorporate whole grains and are low in added sugar.
--Ask for kids’ input on a healthy snack to bring. Encourage their participation in the conversation: What do they think makes a healthy snack?
--Consider non-food items like pencils, small building block sets, tiny decks of cards or a multitude of fun items found at your local discount store. (If you worry about the cost of these items, consider that one “fun size” candy bar is about 13¢).
It’s important to encourage children and their healthy habits. Let them enjoy the holidays and together come up with some ideas for treats to bring.
Source: Amy Korth, nutrition education and school breakfast state specialist