‘Tis the season to enjoy a lot of delicious foods! Mangoes, cherries, ham, turkey, mince pies, chocolate truffles! (We hope you brought a snack to eat while you read.) This is just some of the tastiness that summer brings. And the little humans are going to want a bite of that, too. But! How do we make sure they’re still getting what they need to keep healthy, without overdoing it on the festive foods? We roped in our nutrition expert, Claire, to help. Here are her tips!
Start the day right
With choc-chip pancakes and ice-cream! (Gah! We wish.) Kids should actually start the day with a delicious, nutritious breakfast. Try adding fresh fruit to their cereal, or cooking up a cheesy omelette with cherry tomatoes and grated zucchini, or making a batch of savoury muffins to sneak in an extra serve of veg early in the day. It’s a good idea to offer non-sweet options in the morning, so their taste buds get some variety. When offering snacks, ‘crunch and dip’ (otherwise known as ‘hummus and raw veggies’) is a great one, while seaweed snacks and kale chips are healthy-but-tasty alternatives to potato crisps. Once they’ve loaded up on healthy foods, you can bring out other treats, and feel better knowing they’ve had a solid start to the day.
Keep meals balanced
Tiny tummies need a balance of nutrients. (Which you won’t get from chocolate pretzels shaped like reindeer, unfortunately.) That means regular serves of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Too much sugary, carb-laden food will almost certainly give a child an upset tummy. So for each meal and snack, look at their plate and ask yourself if it looks balanced. If tummy troubles arise, it might be because they’ve enjoyed a bit too much festive food. But it could also be because they’ve picked up a little friend (in bacterial or parasite form), so keep an eye out for changes to their bowel movements (such as constipation, diarrhoea, gas, or a distended and bloated tummy) and, if you notice these symptoms, it’s best to chat with your GP.
Introduce new foods thoughtfully
The holidays are a special time, and your kids are bound to get their hands on foods you wouldn’t normally be giving them. But what kind of treats are appropriate for your tiny rascal? Dietary advice heavily suggests avoiding all processed sugars for any baby or toddler under the age of two. This rules out stuff like soft drinks, fruit juices, lollies, sweetened biscuits, cakes, and chocolates. (Sorry, kids!) If your child is over the age of two and they have their eyes on a new and delicious treat, let them have a little piece, and try introducing it as a ‘sometimes’ food.
If you are in the exciting phase of introducing new foods into your baby’s diet from five months onwards, just remember to repeat the same food on its own three days in a row before trying the next one. And avoid sugars, except for fruits!
Make your own treats
You don’t have to be Donna Hay to whip up some fun and healthy(ish!) holiday snacks. Home-made treats like gingerbread men, naturally-coloured jelly, pickled vegetables, and fruit-based ice-blocks are great to enjoy. For a fun festive food (and a real 90’s party throwback), make your own fruit kebabs. Chop up bite-size pieces of watermelon, kiwifruit, strawberry, and blueberry, and let your mini chefs put together their own combinations. Or create healthy ‘Ferrero Rocher’ balls with hazelnuts, dates, cacao powder, vanilla extract, and crushed arrowroot biscuits.
Of course, it’s not really the holidays without a classic pav! And even though it’s high in sugar, pavlova is relatively unprocessed and high in protein. (Egg whites and sugar is as clean as it gets when it comes to dessert.) Top it with fresh berries and passionfruit, and try using sweetened greek yogurt instead of cream, if you want a more gut-friendly topping. If your child has egg allergies, you can make a pav with chickpea water instead of eggs – it tastes remarkably similar!
Keeping everyone healthy during the holiday season doesn’t need to be overwhelming! A little bit of everything in moderation will ensure happy holidays, and a happy gut.