Help Kids Eat Healthy at the Holidays

Holidays and special occasions can shake up your children’s eating habits for weeks or even months. Keep kids on track with our curated tips plus recipes from Milk Means More.

With its many festivities and tasty treats, the holiday season often poses a challenge for parents who are trying to maintain their family’s healthy eating habits. Adults face the same challenges. Statistics reveal that, on average, people gain up to five pounds during the holidays. 

The worst part? It appears to stay with us. A steady rate of weight gain can contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and mobility issues. 

If you’re trying to keep your kids on a healthy eating track, the holidays can derail your best intentions. That’s not to say you have to be a Grinch about goodies! The whole family can enjoy holiday food and fun without overdoing it by following a few simple rules. Plus, we’ve got recipes from Milk Means More to help guide you through.

Tips to help kids eat healthy at the holidays:

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day

An article on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ “Healthy Children” blog pointed out that a 2019 study in the journal Nutrients found that obesity in children and teens is linked to skipping breakfast. When your child doesn’t eat breakfast, they are likely to feel extra hungry later in the day, which may lead to overeating.

Plus, your child’s metabolism gets a kickstart when they eat breakfast. Breakfast gives kids the added bonus of getting the “good stuff” in them before they are exposed to the sweets and treats that accompany holiday celebrations.

Stick to normal eating patterns

During school breaks, your child’s routine will likely change, which can affect meals and mealtimes. Serving three meals a day and regular snacks at consistent times will help everyone stay on a good nutritional track. Don’t tell kids not to eat now so that they can eat more later at a holiday event. You run the risk of kids who chow down on junk and the reward of potential stomach aches later that evening!

Provide healthy proteins for snacks and meals

Protein-rich foods like lean meats, cheese and yogurt, plus nut and seed butters are not only full of nutrients but they fill your kids up longer. The more healthy nutrition kids get, the less tempted they will be by junk and sweets later. 

Offer a variety of vegetables with holiday meals

Choosing more vegetable-based dishes can offer better nutrition during festive holiday meals. If you are having a large family dinner, serving a platter of raw vegetables with a tasty dip (see recipe below) is a great way to get kids to eat their veggies. Make sure your holiday dinners have some healthy vegetable dishes like sauteed green beans, peas and carrots or even a colorful, fresh and tasty salad (see recipe below).

help kids eat healthy at the holidays checklist

Make healthier versions of holiday favorites

The holidays are a time to indulge, but with a few food swaps you can enjoy all the holiday flavor with a lot less fat, sugar and calories. Grilling foods or baking instead of frying are great ways to get all the deliciousness with a lot less unhealthy fat. 

Give mashed potatoes a healthy twist by substituting low-fat Greek yogurt or buttermilk in mashed potatoes. Use low-fat or skim milk instead of whole milk or half-and-half in your recipe. For an extra veggie boost, add some steamed, pureed cauliflower to your mash.

No one wants to skip holiday sweets but you can cut down on sugar overload by offering fruit topped with a dollop of whipped cream for a tasty dessert. Serving a two-crust pie? Remove the top crust to cut down on fat and calories. Make homemade hot chocolate using real milk instead of a store-bought mix (see recipe below). Fruits, low-fat milk and yogurt can all be used as swaps to make yummy desserts that aren’t overloaded with sugar and fat.

Ready for recipes? We’ve curated some of our faves from Milk Means More/United Dairy Industry of Michigan:

Healthy holiday recipes:

Greek yogurt breakfast bowl

Greek yogurt is loaded with protein and the addition of peanut butter and strawberries enhances the flavor and adds a nutritional punch. If you like, swap out sunflower seed butter or soy butter instead.

Sheet pan buttermilk pancakes

All the deliciousness of pancakes with room for toppings to suit every taste. Baking instead of frying is a healthier option, plus you can feed a crowd without standing over a hot pan.

Guacamole veggie platter

Serve on game days, as an appetizer before a big holiday meal or whenever you are hanging out with friends and family. 

Christmas salad

Healthy ingredients that combine for a festive flavor combination! If your family doesn’t like one of the ingredients, remove it or swap it with a healthy alternative.

Hot chocolate

Make your own for a satisfying snowy day sweet treat that also packs the nutrition of real milk.

For more recipes and nutrition information visit Metro Parent has more information about kids and healthy eating.

Jenny Kales
Jenny Kales
Content editor Jenny Kales has been in the business of writing for more than 20 years. A natural storyteller, she loves helping Metro Parent clients tell their stories in a way that resonates with their audiences.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -


5 YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit Events Perfect for Families

Check out these fun, family-friendly events happening at YMCA Metro Detroit.

A Metro Detroit Parent’s Guide to Public Schools in Oakland County

Explore Oakland County public schools, providing quality education for K-12 students, with details on offerings and facilities.

How to Keep Your Macomb County Child Engaged This Summer

Brought to you by the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development and the Macomb Intermediate School District

- Advertisement -