Wednesday January 20 2021
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Eating Healthy over the Holidays

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Ahh… the holidays! Did I just see you cringe at that thought? If so, you are not alone… and if not, you’re in good company. The problem is that whatever company you keep, they are probably tempting you with delicious morsels or calorie-packed nogs to sip by the glow of the fire. And who can turn down that warm and fuzzy moment?

But why do those cozy moments have to involve food? And, why is it so difficult to politely refuse the bounty of temptations our well-intending family and friends offer to us?

So often we feel that we run the risk of offending someone if we don’t eat what they’ve lovingly prepared. It can be downright painful to see the dejected look on Aunt Linda’s face when we decline her famous party mix. And let’s face it, most of us would rather injure our gastrointestinal system than deny Grandma the thrill of watching us devour her pumpkin pie! The question is, where and how do we draw the line, and how do we teach our kids that practicing good nutrition is especially important during the holidays?

Sometimes it’s best when the lesson doesn’t come from us, and we already know that Grandma is probably not interested in denying our kids their holiday treats. So, who would we listen to and who would our kids admire enough to heed? How about a four-time Olympic medalist, and newly appointed co-chair to President Obama’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition?

Dominique Dawes ( is exactly that person! She should perk some ears, right? Well, listen up. Here’s what she shared during a recent one-on-one interview exclusively for KidSPORTS Magazine:

Dominique suggests that first and foremost, adults lay the groundwork for our children to follow good nutritional habits by providing healthy options as part of our feasts. There should be plenty of fruits and veggies within reach.

We should also pay considerable attention to the preparation of the foods we serve.

"Eating turkey might sound like a healthy option, but if it is smothered in gravy its nutritional value is significantly different than what we might have intended," she points out.

One of Dominque’s favorite tricks when she is enjoying holiday festivities with family and friends is to pace herself.

"Although we might be attending a party that lasts for four hours, we do not have to eat for four hours," she notes. "We should pace ourselves and practice moderation. Portion control."

When I asked Dominique to share some of her secret weapons to staying on track, she said that she snacks on trail mix to keep up her energy level and help prevent her from binging. To make this more effective, she mixes up her own instead of purchasing pre-made varieties. That way she knows what’s in it, and she i sure that she likes each ingredient; this is not only less wasteful, it eliminates "hunting and pecking" through a bag to avoid items one doesn’t like.

Mixing your own trail mix a great way for parents to get kids involved in food preparation at a young age. Also, if your child helps mix up their own trail mix, chances are that they’ll appreciate it more, and your money will go further. A little inside personal scoop:  Dominique loves almonds and walnuts in her trail mix!

Now, Mom and Dad, keep in mind that we can lay all the groundwork in the world to help our kids maintain healthy nutritional habits during the holidays; however, there is one more important item to address. We must do more than set a great table for our holiday feasts; we must also set a good example for our kids to follow by practicing self-control ourselves, and let’s not forget to include some form of physical activities.

Even though we might not be hitting the gym every day, and our kids may have a break from competitive sports, we should make it part of our holiday planner to schedule time outside playing together. A "friendly" game of tag football might be fun, and Dominique says that even if it’s a little cold outside, once you get moving around, you’ll warm up quickly.

If you are like me, and don’t really like playing tag football, don’t let that stop you. If there is snow on the ground, go sledding or have a snowball battle. It’s the fact that you are participating and creating fantastic memories for the future that really counts!

Speaking of "counting," Dominique says that it’s OK to cut ourselves a bit of a break during the holidays.  

Although it’s good to count calories and choose healthy options, "We should not beat ourselves up or completely deny ourselves tasty treats. As long as we practice self-control and maintain a good balance, lighten up and enjoy the good times."

Of course, that special permission comes with a caveat which Dominique was quick to add: "Even if we veer off course, just get back on track and keep moving."

Remember that maintaining healthy goals during the tempting holidays will help ensure that we do not get too far off track as we head into the new year.

If that’s the case, we might not need to make those dreadful new year’s resolutions! Now that’s a great incentive to behave when those tempting sugar plums go dancing by on the buffet table! By the way, if you look up the words "sugar-plum," you'll find that they do not sound very tempting! Which gives me a great idea...

Perhaps my secret weapon this year will be to make certain that all the "tasty" treats on my table are sugar plums!

Debbie Mancini-Wilson is the best-selling author of Color My World. Visit her at

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