Thanksgiving only comes around once a year, but it can easily throw your children's healthy eating habits out the window. This year, don't let yourself or your family fall off the wagon.
By staying active, eating healthy and being aware of any food allergies, you can get through Thanksgiving without a hitch.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of serious allergic reactions in the United States are caused by eight foods: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts and tree nuts — and an estimated 4 to 6 percent of children in the United States are affected by food allergies.
So how do we prevent these food allergies from disrupting our Thanksgiving? Here are a few easy tips:
Save labels. If you're hosting, be sure to save any packaging so that parents of children with food allergies can read them before dishing up plates.
Bring a dish to share. Bring an allergen-free dish to share so that you know there will be something that you or your child can eat.
Label dishes that include allergens. By labeling dishes that contain any of the eight common food allergens, those with food allergies can easily spot dishes they may need to avoid.
Let kids with food allergies serve themselves first to avoid cross contamination. Allowing kids with food allergies to get their food first decreases the chances of using cross-contaminated serving utensils.
The holiday season is the most difficult time of the year to maintain healthy habits. With so many temptations, how is it possible to encourage your children to choose fruits and vegetables over that slice of pie?
Have a variety of fruits and vegetables. By serving freshly cut vegetables as an appetizer and having fruit ready as a non-traditional dessert or snack, you and your family can avoid filling up on carbohydrates and sweets.
Set a positive example. If your kids see you eating and enjoying healthy dishes, they will often follow your lead.
Let your kids help plan the menu. Your kids are more likely to eat the foods they help create, so be sure to make them feel included and encourage them to select healthy dishes.
Wait before you get a second plate — and encourage your family to do the same. Pace yourself and stop eating when you're full. This will help to make sure that you and your kids don't overeat. However, if your kids are picky eaters, be sure to find a healthy dish or two that you know they will eat before they reach for dessert.
It is way too easy to spend Thanksgiving watching football rather than outdoors getting exercise. Don't be a couch potato on this calorie-laden holiday. Here are a few tips for staying active:
Participate in a local fun run. Many cities have family-friendly TurkeyTrots that you can participate in on Thanksgiving Day. Get the whole family together and begin the day on a healthy note.
Go for a walk or a hike. A walk is a great way to not only get exercise, but for the whole family to spend time together as well.
Play a game of flag football. Many parents probably remember participating in a game of flag football with their own families as kids. Get your entire family involved for this classic Thanksgiving game.
Plan a family workout the next day. Don't spend the day after Thanksgiving feeling tired and sluggish. Make a commitment as a family to get moving and burn off those calories from the day before.
By following these easy steps, you can walk away from the Thanksgiving table and know that you kept yourself and your children in tip top shape!
Mark Kishel, MD, FAAP, is Regional Vice President and Senior Clinical Officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.