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Eating at Christmas

How to navigate your kids eating habits this Christmas


The Busy Mums Christmas Survival Eating Guide


For parents everywhere, Christmas can be very a very stressful time but adding a picky eater into the mix can take stress to a whole new level. Even without a picky eater in the family, navigating children’s eating habits can be a challenge at this time of year. I have been there, done that and know exactly how it feels.


Here are my top tips for helping you navigate all things food over the Christmas holidays.


1. EMBRACE THE CHRISTMAS SWEET FEST


Christmas is just around the corner and with it is coming the advent calendars, selection boxes, tubs of Celebrations and Roses, and don’t forget the mince pies and Christmas cake. For the month of December, I have made peace with the fact that my 3 kids (and I) will be eating a lot more sweets than usual. Understandably, parents tend to restrict foods they think are unhealthy or too high in sugar. But I am going to dispel a myth about sugar – it does not make kids hyper. Despite what we have been led to believe, numerous studies over decades have shown that there is no substantial evidence proving that sugar causes hyperactivity in children. Sugar can affect appetite so I do try to avoid sweets too close to mealtime, and I keep the diet as balanced as possible at regular meal and snack times.


2. RESTRICTING FOODS WILL ONLY BACKFIRE


As a parent, I understand the fear of too many sweets and the proverbial “sugar high” but just hear me out on this one, restricting sweets almost always has the opposite of the desired effect. When sweets are limited or taken away, the most common reaction for a child is to crave them all the more. When we restrict sweets, or any food for that matter, we just increase the child’s desire for it which may eventually lead to an unhealthy obsession for that food. The negative psychological impact of food restriction can’t be overstated enough so please be mindful of this, not just at Christmas but all year round. Let them have the sweets, let them enjoy the sweets and move on.


3. CHRISTMAS DINNER WITH A FUSSY EATER


Christmas Day dinner for picky eaters can be hugely challenging, especially if there are new or unfamiliar foods on the menu. From the child’s perspective this can make the dinner table a very daunting place to be. Prepare your child by talking to them about what to expect on the day, discuss the menu and let them chose a few foods they would like to have served at dinner. It might not be the turkey, Brussel sprouts and roasted carrots you wanted them to enjoy but having them at the table and being part of the family meal is far more important than what’s on their plate.


4. TRY TO KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE


Having realistic expectations when it comes to Christmas Day dinner is important. On Christmas day, most kids are under slept and over excited which will most likely have a knock-on effect on their appetite. If they are forced to eat what’s on their plate this may cause anxiety which will just decrease their appetite even further. My youngest son has a huge breakfast on Christmas morning and eats a smaller Christmas dinner than the rest of us and that is perfectly okay. What is much more important to me is that he is happy, calm and relaxed at the meal, with no pressure on him to eat something he doesn’t want to.


5. BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL FOR YOUR CHILD


Children really are little sponges, picking up habits, learning and copying behaviours they see from their parents and those around them. As parents, we have to be aware of the huge role we play in shaping our children’s eating habits. If you want your child to enjoy a wide and varied diet then having one yourself is key. Having a healthy relationship with food, watching you eating and enjoying your food are important behaviours to model.



6. ENJOY FOOD WITHOUT THE SIDE DISH OF GUILT


Many adults struggle with their own food and body issues at this time of year. It’s nearly impossible not to considering the diet culture world we live in. Teaching us to feel shame and self-loathing when it comes to our bodies and valuing thinness over physical, mental and emotional health. It is okay to overeat at Christmas, you don’t have to earn your food or burn it off with exercise. Give yourself and your little one’s permission to enjoy all foods this Christmas, guilt free. What you eat is a lot less important than how you treat or feel about yourself after you eat. Ditch diet culture, you deserve so much better and so do your kids.


Have a wonderful Christmas everyone. Eat, drink and be merry x



For more information on this topic or to find out how you can work with me or to enrol on my upcoming workshop Raising Confident Eaters, please email hello@clarehegartyhealth.com or follow me on








4 tbsp dark soy sauce

4 tbsp rice wine or mirin

Tsp Ginger, fresh or chopped frozen

1 garlic clove crushed

2 salmon fillets

140g any noodles

2 tbsp sesame oil

2 spring onions, chopped



1tbsp honey

Pre cooked noodles ( I prefer Udon)


1. In a small bowl, whisk together soya sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, ginger and garlic.


2. Fry Salmon in a large non stick wok.


3. When salmon is cooked, add noodles and spring onions to pan and cook for 2-3 mins, add pre made sauce.










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