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Keeping the lid on holiday sweets

As the holidays approach, so do the sweets.  You’ve already got huge bags of Halloween leftovers lying around. Now you’re facing candy canes, holiday parties, gift baskets, Christmas goodies and big dinners with decadent desserts.  

Setting limits

Help your children limit themselves without depriving them. If there’s a variety of sweets on offer, help them choose only one, or take a very small serving from each. Help them recognize when they’re full, and know when to push the plate away. You can also help them save uneaten treats for later, so they don’t have to finish their treats right away. There is no reason to make your child finish dessert.

Relaxing the rules

Decide when you’re going to stick to your limits and when you’re going to relax the rules. Let your children know ahead of time if this is a night they’ll be able to load their dessert plates (this will prevent parental waffling and giving in, which establishes dangerous precedents for future sweets debates).  One evening of overindulgence won’t ruin things in the long run.

Displaying and hiding

Researchers at one school cafeteria found that an easy way to encourage children to eat more fruit was to display it in a brightly colored bowl. You can use this trick at home by putting nutritious food on display and hiding the treats. Apples, oranges, and bananas in a special serving bowl make snack time appealing and healthy. Holiday sweets can stay in the cupboard until it’s time for dessert.


If there are too many sweets sitting around, repurpose them.  Bake extra candy into cookies for gift plates. Use it to decorate gingerbread houses, trains, or even villages (assemble these quickly by sticking graham crackers together with melted sugar, or hot-gluing graham crackers to small milk cartons). Make colorful candy posters or messages for friends. Experiment on discards by dropping candy canes in water to make stripes, or melting candy in the oven.

Saving and discarding

If you’ve received more sweets than you can handle, save them for later. Wouldn’t it be fun to pull Christmas cookies out of the freezer for St. Patrick’s Day?

You can also use the holiday season to clean out the candy cupboard. Discard the Halloween candy your family won’t eat, or donate it to a local food bank.  If you prepare a donation of candy and healthy food, you can teach your children to think of nutrition and think of others at the same time.

Choosing good gifts

If your friends and coworkers don’t want extra sweets for Christmas, find something else to make the season special. In one Seattle office, a doctor gives his employees canned Alaska salmon, another gives jars of homemade plum jam, and another brings a box of oranges to balance gifts of holiday cookies.

Holidays should be a time to enjoy your family, your friends, and your food.  With good guidelines and a little planning, your can help your family appreciate them all.

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Loralee Leavitt destroys candy for the sake of science, drags her family on long car trips, and enjoys all sorts of other family adventures. She writes about family subjects such as science experiments, budgeting, finding inexpensive alternatives, tr… Read More


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