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posted: 11/28/2013 5:36 AM

Don't let the holidays derail healthy habits

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  • Encourage kids to indulge in healthy portions of their favorite holiday treats.

    Encourage kids to indulge in healthy portions of their favorite holiday treats.

  • Overnight oats are a great breakfast option for busy holiday mornings.

    Overnight oats are a great breakfast option for busy holiday mornings.

By Christina Fitzgerald

Despite my shock that we're in the throes of the holiday season, it's here and it's time to celebrate! I love the parties, the extra family time and the amazing food that this time of year brings. What I don't like are the crazy weekend schedules and lack of daily structure, especially around meal planning. With three young boys, my family thrives on structure -- structured meals and snacks lead to better behavior that this mom loves. So, this month, I thought I'd share my secrets on how I navigate the craziness without going crazy.

Family breakfast

Breakfast is the key for all of us to survive the day in a mentally and physically healthy way. No matter what the schedule is going to be, I insist that we all sit down for a family breakfast. That doesn't mean that we always sit down at the exact same time, but it's known that we're not jumping into obligations/chores/playdates without having a substantial and healthy breakfast. When we're really in a pinch, my on-the-go breakfasts include:

• Whole wheat waffle and peanut butter banana sandwich. Wrap this in a paper towel, hand them a milk box, and you've got a nourishing breakfast.

• Protein smoothies. Add cottage cheese or peanut butter to almost any fruit smoothie and not only will it blend the flavors nicely, but it will add a punch of protein that will keep the engines running

• Overnight oatmeal. If it's a holiday morning and I need to clean or cook first thing and don't want to deal with cooking breakfast, I serve up overnight oats. The base is equal parts oats to milk and yogurt; my kids like the blend of milk and yogurt for the added creaminess. The base is great because you can then mix and match flavor toppings to each family member's taste.

Scheduled gross motor play time

While running a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day may not sound ideal to the person hosting, the idea of exercise even on a major holiday is a good habit to instill now. According to the National Institutes of Health, holiday eating can add an extra 1 to 2 pounds of weight gain each year. Over the course of a child's life, this can add up and result in many weight-related diseases. Whether we're heading to a late-afternoon party or hanging at the house with extended family, making time for an outdoor football game or game of tag helps get the energy and craziness out of the kids, it builds tradition and memories while also making exercise a normal part of EVERY day, even a holiday.

Practice and teach portion control

Too often I hear from family, friends, and clients that the indulging is fine because "said holiday" only comes once a year. And I agree -- sort of. While that "said holiday" may only come once a year, it's not the only holiday of the year. Add all of those together and the overindulgence could be happening much more frequently than anyone wants to admit. Second, indulgence is OK, but still in moderation. That sentence seems to contradict itself doesn't it? Consider redefining indulgence as consuming foods that are richer (in sugar, fat, calories) than what you consume on a regular basis. No food needs to be considered off limits, but kids should not see indulging as the same as bingeing. Instead, help your kids scan the foods being offered, let them pick a few of their favorite holiday foods, and then help guide them on a healthy portion size of the food. The rest of the plate should still be filled up with fresh fruits and veggies to help balance out the more indulgent foods. While you can't gain weight indulging in one slice of pie, it only takes 500 calories per day (or 3,500 per week) more than your normal consumption to add on one extra pound.

Eat smart, keep the body moving and have a very happy holiday season!

Contact me: If you have any feedback, comments or questions on this topic or others, I would love to hear from you! Email christina@ with all your thoughts.

• Christina Fitzgerald, a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian nutritionist, is the owner of Nourished, Nutrition and Wellness, She lives with her husband and three young sons in the Northwest suburbs.

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