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Healthy holiday eating with children

By By Brenda Anderson
Nov. 26, 2013 at 5:26 a.m.

Brenda Phipps

The holidays can be a great opportunity to talk with your children about family food traditions and healthy eating.

Choose recipes by browsing through family cookbooks together and get ideas from your children about how you could make those family recipes healthier this year.

Help them make a shopping list for the recipe ingredients and teach them how to spot nutritious ingredients, such as yogurt, low-fat milk and brightly colored fruits and vegetables that will help them grow and stay healthy, at the store.

At home, show children how to prepare and cook healthy holiday recipes. Most importantly, schedule this special time with your child just like you would plan for everything else when you are extremely busy.Make traditional desserts healthier by substituting applesauce in place of half the oil or butter and using whole wheat flour in place of half of the regular flour. You can also add oats, dried fruit or nuts to baked goods for even more nutrition. Decorate the tops of cakes with fresh fruit instead of frosting.

Instead of candy, fill your children's holiday stockings with jump ropes, foam balls, Frisbees, yo-yos or other items that encourage physical activity. Take a family walk together between your holiday meal and dessert.

Have easy and healthy kid-friendly foods ready to go during busy times. Some ideas are small yogurt cups, low-fat cheeses, granola bars, whole-grain crackers, baby carrots or whole fruits. Provide your children with a few snack choices that are reasonably nutritious - they will be happy they get to choose their own snack, and you get to make sure that they are eating healthy foods.

It may be easy to send a bag of chips for your child's school party, but it only takes a little more thought and preparation to send something more nutritious and yummy like a fruit or veggie platter. Arrange brightly colored fruits or vegetables in fun ways to get kids' attention.

For example, you can arrange pieces of broccoli on a serving tray in the shape of a Christmas tree with cherry tomatoes as the ornaments or lay green apple slices in the shape of a wreath and use red grapes as the holly berries on the wreath.

Switch to healthier alternatives. Most foods have a healthier version on the shelf right next to them. Use lower-fat creams, mayonnaise, cheeses and milk in holiday recipes. Make the change to lower sodium versions of meats, soups and canned vegetables.

In most recipes, your children will not notice a difference.

Bake as many foods as you can instead of frying them. You can lower the fat content in foods this way without losing flavor.

One more important point during this holiday baking season: Since raw eggs can carry harmful salmonella bacteria that is not killed until baked, do not let children eat cookie dough or cake batter.

Have a wonderful holiday season.

Sources: nationaldairycouncil.org, nourishinteractive.com, fightbac.org, kids.usa.gov

Brenda Anderson is a Victoria County extension assistant.

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