6 Tips for a Healthier Holiday










With so many festive parties that include desserts, candies, and fat-laden foods, denying your child sweet treats is easier said than done. It’s better to teach your child moderation and how to make healthy choices. Dr. Dyan Hes, Medical Director of Gramercy Pediatrics, offers 6 tips for parents to allow children a little indulgence, while maintaining a healthy diet during the holiday season.



  1. Teach your Child Portion Control when Choosing from the Dessert Table – “Often there are multiple desserts on a holiday table.   By allowing your child to choose their favorite, not only gives them a sense of freedom in their food choices, but also teaches portion control and limitations,” recommends Dr. Hes. If your child wants to taste several desserts, then give them a small taste of each one, that equals one serving. “If a child is completely denied a dessert, it will only make them want it more.”


  1. Keep Sugary Drinks to a Minimum – The holidays are the perfect time to break out the sparkling cider and hot cocoa. But just as adults need to watch their consumption of highly caloric beverages, so should kids. A 12oz hot chocolate with whipped cream can have up to 400 calories and about 40 grams of sugar! Dr. Hes recommends keeping an eye on how many “holiday beverages” your child is consuming during meals and parties. “Make hot chocolate from low sugar instant mixes and use reduced fat (light) whipped cream or skip it entirely,” says Dr. Hes. “There is also a ton of sugar in fruit juice, and although sparkling cider is fun, limit your child to one glass to celebrate.”


  1. Lead by Example – Children learn eating habits from their parents. Don’t use the holidays as an excuse to overindulge, but as another touch point to teach kids healthier eating habits. If you are piling up on desserts, your child will think it is acceptable. Make sure to load your plates with lots of veggies during dinner and limit the sweets to one after the meal.


  1. Create Healthier Food Traditions – Much of the holidays are focused on food and many families have special dishes that have become traditions. Those “traditional dishes” are often highly caloric and filled with fat. Grandmother’s sausage stuffing, or Aunt Sara’s cheesy casserole might be a “must” for every holiday meal, but they can also expand the waist quickly. Instead, Dr. Hes recommends creating new healthier favorites that are reserved only for the holidays and get kids excited to see them on the table. We make chopped salad (Mediterranean style) that everyone loves and always have fruit salad as a dessert option.


  1. Non-Food Activities – Food may play an important role in the holidays, but adding other fun into the festivities takes the focus off eating. Kids love games, making arts and crafts, decorating the house, acting out stories, and loads of other activities that can involve the whole family.  Be creative and come up with something that is unique and special to your family’s holiday traditions.


  1. Movement – Get your families moving.  It’s great to play outside while the food is cooking, just be sure to bundle your kids up.  The whole family can take a brisk walk after a big feast.  The kids get a big kick out of carrying flashlights and going out for a walk in the dark!  Have games set up at home that the kids can play like jump rope or hula hoop competitions that they can do indoors.


About Dr. Dyan Hes

Dyan Hes, MD, named a 2013 top doctor by NEW YORK magazine, is the Medical Director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City and sits on the board of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. Dr. Hes is double boarded in both pediatrics and obesity medicine. She currently serves as Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. In conjunction with the Park Slope YMCA, Dr. Hes created the Be Fit program for overweight children, which has served as a successful model of collaboration between hospitals and community centers. An active advocate for pediatric and adolescent nutrition and weight management, Dr. Hes is a pediatrician serving as a Director of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. She was named one of New York’s Top Doctors of 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 by Castle and Connolly.