Healthy Kids with Susie Burrell

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Lifestyle lesson number 4: Christmas is just one day!
Christmas and the school holidays can be a challenge for families with too many high calorie, high fat foods in the home along with all those hours to be filled as structured activities go on hold, friends go away for the holidays and screens (TV, computer, movie) beckon. Not surprisingly, weight gain is common for parents and kids. In fact, the average weight gain for adults in Australia over the summer holiday period is 1–2 kg (2–4 pounds)!


Remember, Christmas is just 1 day, not 6 weeks. Here are some tips to help you keep yourself and your kids a healthy weight over the break.

  • Over the festive season, place a limit on treats your children eat each day – for example 1–2 chocolates a day so children are aware they can have extras but not overeat.
  • Don’t buy too much food – if it’s there and in the fridge or on the pantry shelf, it will be eaten.
  • Buy treats in small amounts only.
  • Structure in treats each week over the holidays so your children know when they will be having them. And remember, treats don’t have to be food! Doing things and having fun together as a family can be a real treat.
  • Use your veto power. Ask family and friends not to give your family food gifts or treats like cookies, lollies (candies) or chocolates.
  • Choose water instead of high-calorie soft drinks and fruit juices which can pile on the pounds quick smart.
  • Look as the holidays as a time to do more activity not less. Children need to be active for at least 1–2 hours every single day. Enjoy a daily family walk or bike ride or ball game in the park, or trip to the beach or local pool.
  • Have firm limits on the amount of television your children watch and computer time you allow. Aim for 1–2 hours each day. Discuss it beforehand so everyone knows where they stand.
  • Enrol the kids into as many structured holidays activities as you can afford. Check out your local council website or school holiday camp websites to see what’s on offer.
  • Stick to standard meals times (at the table, TV off) to avoid constant grazing, which promotes overeating.
  • Eat before you head out to the mall or the movies, so that the kids don’t get hungry.
  • Make a pre-emptive strike if you are going to be out for a long time – have a chat before you leave the house about what food you are prepared to buy.
  • Pack a snack pack to deal with hunger pangs – keep apples and healthy wholegrain snack bars in your bag along with a bottle of water.
  • Low fat smoothies, sushi, burgers (with one meat pattie), wraps and low fat muffins are the best options when eating out. Try and avoid deep fried fries, pies and pizza as well as soft drinks at all times.

Susie Burrell is a specialist Weight Management Dietitian at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. In her private practice, she balances her clinical work with writing for print and electronic media. For more information check out:

Susie Burrell