Maintaining a nutritional, balanced diet can be quite difficult for children during the holiday season, especially with the holiday activities and sweet treats floating around. Supporting your kids’ healthy nutrition and eating habits is an important responsibility you have as a child care provider. While offering more treats during the season may seem insignificant right now, your children are at risk of losing the healthy habits you helped them form throughout the year. It may also be more difficult for them (and you) to jump back on the healthy bandwagon after the holidays have died down. Don’t stray from your normal healthy menu and routine to ensure your children’s health is top priority throughout the year.

Take some extra time this season to prep your child care menus. You will need to plan for more children and extra meals if your child care is open for longer hours during the holiday season. Make sure to continue to include nutritious, healthy food, and fill your menu with whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Refrain from buying sweets and fatty foods as they can prevent your children from consuming the healthier options you have available.

School is out and more children are in your care for longer periods of the day. Try not to stray from your normal child care routine, and make sure to stick to a consistent eating schedule. Avoid allowing children to indulge in extra meals if that is not what they normally consume. Keep healthy, nutritious snacks available if they get hungry in between meals such as oranges, cucumber slices, baby carrots, and grapes. Remember to always keep water readily available for children so they stay hydrated throughout the day.

Yourkidstable.com suggests “opening a discussion and skipping the lecture. Ask questions like,’ What type of food do you think that is?’ Or, ‘There’s something really cool about salmon. It’s sort of a super fish because it has these special vitamins that actually help our brain grow. Did you know that?”

Make your menu enjoyable by allowing your children to explore and talk about a variety of nutritious foods. Head to the farmer’s market or your local grocery store and pick up some flavorful winter produce to add to your holiday menus.  Make mealtime fun and exciting by having your children describe the food they eat. Talk about the texture and smell and focus on descriptive words such as crunchy, tart, and juicy. Educate children on the nutritional value of the foods, and turn mealtime into story time! Yourkidstable.com suggests “[opening a] discussion and [skipping] the lecture. Ask questions like, ‘What type of food do you think that is?’ Or, ‘There’s something really cool about salmon. It’s sort of a super fish because it has these special vitamins that actually help our brain grow. Did you know that?”

Allow your children in the kitchen with you while you prepare the meals. Kids love to be involved, and by allowing them to help prepare/cook/bake with you makes them more likely to consume the food afterward. Delegate easy, age-appropriate kitchen tasks for each child to ensure safety and productivity. Educate them on healthy substitutes to add to your recipes such as zucchini noodles instead of pasta. For a full list of healthy substitutions, check out www.greatist.com.

Stay active! Promoting physical activity in your child care throughout the day will ensure your children are maintaining their healthy habits throughout the holiday season. If you live in a colder climate that prevents outside play, keep the activity inside by throwing a dance party in your living room, teaching your children simple yoga poses, putting on skits and plays – the list goes on and on. Enjoy the quality time with your child care kids and play!

Don’t forget to take care of yourself! Make sure you’re looking after your own nutritional needs, as well. Be mindful of the foods you consume, try to take daily walks after you close, stay hydrated, and swap unhealthy ingredients with more healthful ingredients in your own food.

Make the most of this holiday season, and stay mindful of you and your children’s healthy habits. Stay on the nutritious path to ensure a strong and healthy year ahead! Have some tips on how you keep a healthy menu? Let us know in the comment section below!