Uh oh! It’s that time of year for all of your favorite foods to make a grand appearance at the dinner table. For example, there’s probably a cameo from the buttered cornbread, intermission with fried turkey and a finale by the pumpkin pie. While these food items are symbols of holiday meals and time spent with loved ones, they can contribute to unhealthy eating habits.

Don’t Let the Holidays Weigh You Down

Authors: Stephanie Walsh, M.D., Medical Director, Child Wellness, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Antonio Cain, Nutritionist, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

With the threatening epidemic of childhood obesity that the country is facing, forming healthy family habits is important. Family influence plays a strikingly large role in childhood obesity; in fact, children with an obese parent are 50 percent more likely to be obese themselves. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has listed some simple and fun ways to avoid holiday heaviness while keeping the whole family happy:

  • Leading up to the holidays, encourage your family to spend one less hour in front of the television and one more hour of physical activity per day to help offset the extra holiday calories consumed.
  • Eat a light, healthy snack before sitting down to a holiday meal to decrease your appetite and avoid overeating.
  • Serve water with your holiday meal instead of sugary beverages like lemonade, alcohol and sweet tea.
  • Provide fruit and vegetable platters as healthy alternatives to more fattening appetizers.
  • Encourage your family to fill at least half of their plates with fruits and vegetables. White meat turkey is also a great source of lean protein, so choose those pieces if possible.
  • Enjoy a family game of touch football instead of watching the games on television.
  • Take a family walk after your holiday meal as this will help you feel energized rather than lethargic.
  • Remember that parents serve as role models for their children, so make sure your actions are ones that you would want your children to follow.

Are you looking for some ways to incorporate a healthy new recipe into your traditional holiday feast? Try some dishes rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are nutrients that can be found in our body to help repair tissue from “free radical” damage. Along with enhancing your immune system antioxidants also prevent against heart disease, macular degeneration, diabetes and cancer. The most common antioxidants are Vitamins A, C, and E which are found in many foods like green leafy vegetables, fruits, vegetable and liver oil, nuts and seeds.

Here is a simple recipe from Epicurious.com that may be a good way to add antioxidants to your holiday meals:

Kale with Garlic and Cranberries

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds kale (preferable Russian Red), stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely torn
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (2 ounces)

Instructions

Cook kale in a 6-quart pot of boiling salted water (1 1/2 tablespoons salt for 4 quarts water), uncovered, until almost tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain in a colander, then immediately transfer kale to an ice bath to stop cooking. When kale is cool, drain but do not squeeze.

Cook garlic in oil in same pot over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add kale, dried cranberries, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and cook, tossing frequently with tongs, until kale is heated through and tender, 4 to 6 minutes.

By incorporating more fitness into your days and antioxidants into your meals, you can enjoy the holidays without experiencing the traditional holiday sluggishness. Here’s to a healthy and happy holiday season!