Christmas cookies, festive treats, gingerbread men and their houses, chocolate oranges, Santas and reindeers, the list is endless. Sugar seems to be EVERYWHERE during Christmas. And these sweet treats are certainly one reason children look forward to this time of the year. Should we really take the fun out of Christmas by limiting sugar during this period, or is there a better solution?
To answer this question, let’s look at the evidence; will three days (or even a week) of eating sweets really change the health of your child? Unlikely! Habits are formed over longer periods of time, so what your child eats from January to end of November matters a lot more, than what your child eats during Christmas. What’s more, you can influence the amount of sugar your kids eat during Christmas by the way your kids eat during the rest of the year. Strictly limiting sugary foods and confectionary throughout the year can backfire on days like Christmas, birthdays, Easter or once the kids are old enough to make their own food choices. Research strongly suggests that limiting certain groups can substantially increase cravings for it, in which case kids “go mad” for sugar when they are allowed to have it.
To avoid this, and to equip your kids with the tools they need to be in control of their own sugar intake, try to avoid putting sweets on a pedestal. Foods should be enjoyable, but seen as neutral, without emotional attachments like “bad”, “good”, “naughty” or “guilt-free”. Explain to your kids the importance of eating a variety of different foods and that all foods have benefits. Some foods can help us grow, make us strong, or improve our immune system, while other foods, like chocolate, can make us happy and satisfied. Every food item has a benefit and can form a part of a healthy and well-balanced diet. Kids who see sweets as neutral and as part of a varied diet, are a lot less likely to “binge” on sweets during the festive season.
So, if you want to curb the over-excitement around sugar during Christmas, it might be worth considering leaving the cookie jar out throughout the year. For more information about sugar in your child’s diet check out this blog.