For kids, Thanksgiving often means playing with cousins they only see in photos for most of the year. That playtime is important and limited. The trouble is holidays often include a lot of sugary or high-fat foods that interfere with kids' ability to have a healthy play experience. (It's science: Sugar + lots of kids = epic sugar high, which eventually = epic sugar crash and general grumpiness). Here are some tips for fueling that precious playtime with healthy food.
1. Pick the right foods:
Instead of bread and creamy dips for appetizers, get fruit and veggie platters from the deli section of your grocery store. (Easy finger food!) For the veggies, try making a tzatziki dip with nonfat plain yogurt, cucumbers, lemon juice, garlic, and fresh dill, instead of using ranch dressing. For some lean protein, mix some of the tzatziki with baby shrimp, chopped tomatoes, and green onions, and spoon onto whole wheat crackers. Tradition is to eat light before the big meal, but kids have faster metabolisms than adults, so they need to eat every 3-4 hours. Lean protein, fruits, and veggies will keep them energetic for pre-dinner play.
2. Let them make choices:
To fuel your kids with healthy food, they first have to want to eat it. Let them help you plan your meal and appetizers to give them a sense of agency over what food they eat. Structure the planning with directed questions. “What vegetables should we have with our turkey? Squash? Sweet potatoes?” “What kind of fruit should we put in our stuffing? Apples? Dried apricots?” Let each kid pick at least one food. You can even take them with you on your big Thanksgiving grocery shopping trip and let them see and choose the food in its whole, uncooked state.
3. Involve them in cooking ritual:My grandmother used to ask us to help her in the kitchen on Thanksgiving. She let me add the chopped tomatoes to the salad, or the dried cranberries to the bowl of stuffing. At dinner, Grandma would say, “The kids did a fine job making the salad,” and we'd beam while the adults showered us with praise. It was a great way of giving us agency by allowing us to participate in a grown-up duty, and then praise us for our good work and choices.
4. Bundle 'em up and throw 'em outside:
Now that you've helped the kids pick and eat healthy foods, send them outside to play! (Check out Katie Norris' article on the importance of minimally supervised outdoor play.) They won't get this time with out-of-town cousins again anytime soon, so help them make it count.
What are your tips for a healthy Thanksgiving?
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