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  • Lucy Upton

Christmas food and children - what to consider as a parent?

Updated: Dec 21, 2019

No this is not a post about hiding the quality street, saying ‘no’, or fleeing children from the

buffet table. ⁣

I have lots of conversation with parents about navigating the festive season’s food for a variety of reasons: allergy, food refusal, adapting to dietary needs...

Here are my top tips for keeping children healthy, happy, included & safe during the next few weeks of fabulous festive food!⁣

1. RELAX: food is part of the joy of Christmas. ⁣Christmas is a time where inevitably there are different foods around for the whole family to enjoy, many which little eyes will be interested in too so,⁣ remember

  • It might be Christmas, but it’s still just food! Food is just food

  • It does not have any earning potential ⁣

  • Children’s ears will not benefit from hearing talk of guilt, needing to diet in Jan or any negativity or stress talk around food or weight⁣

  • Any foods around Christmas can be included within a balanced diet ( yes there is a chance that sweet treats, or savoury snacks might be more frequent than normal but the concept of balance should be viewed across habits for the year too-not just that day/week)⁣

  • Balance out some of the extra’s with nutrient-dense meals or snacks, focussing on the foods your child might have squeezed in less of over the past few days (e.g. balance the beiges with some colour!)⁣

  • Remember, appetite is likely to fluctuate, especially with moving mealtimes, extra snacks and changes in daily eating routine.⁣

2.KEEP THEM SAFE⁣. This one is really important, in two contexts:⁣

The first is food allergies - Christmas can be a challenging time, particularly with many Christmas foods containing common food allergens such as nuts and lots more food served buffet style or left out during the day.⁣

Whether you are an allergy parent or are hosting a party- please, be mindful of any allergy needs, keeps food separate or away completely and consider alternative or adapted options which allow for the inclusion of those with food allergies! If you’re not sure...ask!⁣


The second is choking risks- there will be more foods around that pose a choking hazard for children, e.g. nuts, hard sweets, grapes etc. Keep an eye on what foods are available that little hands could easily grab and consider familiarising yourself with what to do if you see a child choking.

3. FOOD REFUSAL


Yes, this happens a lot at Christmas! There are tonnes of new or novel foods around ( think about it- you have Christmas dinner probably ONCE a year!). Inevitably this leads to children often refusing food (lack of familiarity/exposure). It can be a challenging time for children with highly restricted diets too!⁣

  • Don’t place high expectations on children to try new foods, or enjoy all the Novel Christmas options ⁣

  • Offer familiar foods alongside those which are new⁣

  • Try small portions initially ⁣

4.ENJOY OTHER FOODS BASED EXPERIENCE

With the festive season in full swing, there are plenty of opportunities for your little ones to explore different foods and textures! And that does not necessarily mean eating!

  • Get creative and make garlands together!

  • Get involved in cooking or baking⁣

  • Family meals - eating together, sharing and showing love with food and mealtimes⁣

  • Creating memories or nostalgia which children will often carry through to adulthood (my mum still makes us a gingerbread house... every year, and it wouldn’t feel the same without it!)


We wish you a very festive holiday season!


Lucy Upton

Paediatric Dietitian

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