The children were nestled all snug in their beds with visions of sugar plums dancing….
A sweet image, but a caution sign to parents once the sugar rush hits. December is laden with candy canes, chocolate bon bons and cookies galore. It’s part of the excitement of the season. Yet, it’s all too easy for children—and parents—to consume an overabundance of holiday sweets, leading to loss of appetite, tooth decay, hyperactivity, sluggishness or weight gain—not to mention children bouncing off the walls.
With clever planning and creative thinking, families can offset the holiday-induced overload of sweets by staging entertaining and meaningful activities that are low or no-sugar.
I’m not advocating a completely sugar-free Christmas, but how about a Reduced-Sugar Holiday? Christmas does not require two tons of sugar to be a barrel of fun. Here are some ideas.
Instead of the conventional gingerbread house bursting with sugary excess, spend a few hours together crafting a house built of birdseeds of different varieties as well as other bird-friendly ingredients, like pretzels, parched corn, peanut butter and suet.
After the holiday is over, the house can be taken outdoors for our feathered friends to enjoy. It’s a more healthful—and environmental—approach to a favorite holiday craft.
How about healthy breakfast stocking stuffers?
They allow children to stave off hunger during the mad frenzy of ribbons and bows. Breakfast is also a more wholesome alternative to candy canes and chocolate Santas. For this, include juice boxes, granola bars, fresh or dried fruit and peanut butter crackers. Children love the “snack size” version of these items and will enjoy digging them out of their stockings. Don’t forget to include a new toothbrush, mini-tube of toothpaste and a package of floss in their stocking stash.
Baking cookies is a holiday favorite for children of all ages.
Made with all natural and now easily-purchased unprocessed sweeteners, Christmas favorites will boast more nutrients and still be just as enjoyable to prepare—and to eat. Simply buy any sweetener labeled “dehydrated sugar cane juice” for a simple one-to-one substitution for regular white sugar. You can also experiment with honey or agave or rice syrups for a heartier flavor without all the processing.
Recycling a live Christmas Tree as a backyard bird feeder can make for a great post-holiday afternoon.
Using suet, peanut butter, pine cones, bird seed and hollowed out orange peels, your children will love crafting bird-friendly “ornaments.” Use suet or peanut butter as your “adhesive” to attach bird seed to the different bases.
While a cookie exchange is certainly a great excuse for a party, hosting a canned food drive instead will provide fellowship with friends as well as bless others less fortunate.
Invite friends for an inexpensive soup supper, making their “cover charge” a few canned goods to donate to your local food pantry.