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A Parent’s Guide to… Healthy Habits at Christmas

Christmas is a time of celebration, family and most of all indulgence! It is a time where most of our healthy habits go out the window and we often eat and drink too much.

For a treat, and in the short term, these indulgences may not be too much of an issue, but it is important to remain active and conscious of your healthy choices.

For kids, wrapped up in the excitement of the magic of the festivities, it can be particularly difficult to limit treats at this time of year. But we’ve pulled together a few ideas for keeping the kids happy without risking over-indulgence and slipping into unhealthy habits that may be harder to shift come the New Year!

Don't take no for an answer

Saying no can be hard – sometimes it can feel easier just to say yes to avoid a big argument; especially around the busy Christmas period. But by phrasing questions such as “would you like x, y, or z?” rather than “what would you like?” you’re eliminating the option of them choosing something you’ll then have to say ‘no’ to. This can guide children into making healthy choices that you are happy with, while still feeling like they have ownership of their decision.

Agree limits beforehand

It’s a good idea to agree the limits of screen time, games, snacks and so on beforehand – so that when you say enough is enough, it doesn’t come as a shock. Parents should stick to the rules just as the children do, this sets a good example and won’t make the child feel as hard done by.

For limiting snacks and treats in a fun way, you could ration daily portions into an advent calendar, or decorate a small box to fill with treats for the day/week. Once it’s empty, it’s empty.

Make healthy snacks available

Although there will probably be all the Christmas favourites around the house, make sure to have healthy snacks available and in sight. Try keeping the Christmas treats hidden and to certain times of day instead of a ‘help yourself’ system. As children gain more independence, learning to choose healthier snack alternatives is an essential skill. Even though it is Christmas, treats should remain treats and not be on demand.

Make your own

Try making healthier alternatives of festive favourites, like these orange segments dipped in chocolate for a healthier ‘Terry’s Chocolate Orange’.


You could try this with all sorts of fruit!

Move with the movies

It can be tempting to stay in and watch back-to-back Christmas movies on TV – but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get moving! Try incorporating a game into your festive films.

Every time you see/hear one of these Christmas film clichés, do the corresponding action!

“Ho ho ho!” – 3 Christmas star jumps

Carol singers – run on the spot for as long as they sing!

Sound of jingle bells – stand up and touch your toes

Someone wearing a Christmas jumper – hop on one leg

Giving a gift – spin around waving your hands in the air!

…. or make up your own!

Festive family fun

Place focus on and build excitement around festive family activities that don’t revolve around eating and drinking! Here are just a few ideas that may start giving you that warm, fuzzy feeling:

  • Read a Christmas story
  • Go ice skating
  • Wrap up warm for a wintery walk
  • Keep an elderly person company – play some Christmas games with them or ask them how they celebrated Christmas when they were little!
  • Take donations to your local food bank
  • Fill a shoebox with presents for a children’s charity like ‘Love in a Box’