Have you got a fussy eater in the family or are you all serious foodies?  The festive season has a strong focus on food, whether it’s how soon you can start baking mince pies, who does and doesn’t like rich fruit cake or how many people the turkey has to feed.

Inevitably there will be sweets, chocolate, crisps and lots of things that probably wouldn’t feature in a nutritionists ideal healthy eating plan!  So how do you persuade your kids not to vacuum up every sugary treat in sight and balance out the food frenzy?

1.    Know what they like

What are their favourite vegetables, fruits, family meals?  Make sure that the healthier favourites are featured in meals.  You can’t force children to like certain foods, so the smart option is to go with the foods they like, rather than have a battle over the dinner table.

2.    Be creative with healthy options

It’s not just about using oven chips instead of the deep-fried options.  What about crispy kale instead of crisps (sprinkle a baking tray of curly kale with oil, rock salt and balsamic vinegar or paprika and bake in over for 5-10 mins),?  Carrot, cucumber and sweet pepper sticks with yogurt-based dips, instead of crisps and richer dips.

3.    Encourage the family to give non-edible gifts.

Fewer sweet treats in the house will make it easier to prevent a sugar binge.  It’s not about being the sugar police, but more about teaching your family long-term good eating.

4.    Agree a one-treat a day strategy over the Christmas period

This will need to apply to everyone, adults too.  Outside mealtimes only one ‘snack’ can be indulgent.  So the sweets and chocolate stash lasts longer and gives everyone something to look forward to.

5.    Offer a (non-edible) prize for healthier lunch ideas

If anyone in the family can come up with a new healthy lunch – ideally one they can make themselves for you to adjudicate – this is a great way to have a fun morning during the holiday period, with everyone involved.  It might even be a lunch that the grown-ups can take to work or eat in the kitchen (see attached pdf for Life Acrobat’s layer lunch).  Let the kids choose an outing as their prize – cinema, ice-skating, bowling, play-park, etc.

6.    Lead by example

If you eat healthily your children are more likely to follow suit.  The message should be more about ‘good nutrition’ than ‘going on a diet’, to avoid children learning that food is the enemy.

7.    Small amounts of anything are OK

It’s better to encourage children to eat what they want, in small portions, rather than to ban any food.  Teach them to eat mindfully, to savour every mouthful, to be aware of the smell, the taste and the texture.  This encourages them to be satisfied with smaller amounts.

The message overall should be positive rather than negative.  Teach your children that food can be nutritious – and still taste great.

LIFE Acrobat – Sweet Potato and Mixed Grain Rainbow Salad