Healthier food options during the holidays

by Katelin Whiddon

The holidays are a great time to enjoy family and friends, and it seems that most of our celebrations are centered around food. As we spend our days enjoying our loved ones, we typically enjoy that food throughout the whole day. If we can try to make healthier decisions in our food, perhaps we can enjoy that time and not be left feeling guilty and miserable for overindulging.

Over time, snacking and “munching” have become more and more common and even mindless eating at times. Sometimes, these foods we carelessly eat on are not the best options. Chips, dip, crackers, candies and cookies are just a few of the “snacky” foods that often accompany get-togethers.

Some healthier alternatives may be fruit, vegetables, cheese or even nuts (obviously taking into account no allergies are present). Even better — we can try to use some self-control and not eat “just to eat,” but rather wait for the meal. Drinking water throughout the day helps to keep you feeling full longer and hopefully less likely to snack “just because.”

You can’t always control what types of food others bring to holiday celebrations, but you can ensure there are healthy options by bringing them yourself. Consider fruit for snacks or dessert. Check out some of your family’s favorite desserts and find ways to make it healthier — there are many healthy options for favorite recipes on the Internet. In planning ahead, we can be prepared to give our families smarter options. 

Young children tend to mimic our actions — whether or not we realize it. Remember when your child repeated something privately spoken within the family? Or got frustrated at traffic and made comments that sounded far too familiar? If we can choose healthier eating habits and drink more water, perhaps our children will mimic those actions as well. 

I read an article about encouraging healthy eating in children by using colors. Teach your children to select colors to put on their plate. A good number to aim toward is four colors. Green options might include salads, broccoli, grapes, beans or peas. Red foods may be tomatoes, apples, watermelon, strawberries or peppers. While white/brown may include breads, pasta, or potatoes; it can also include lean meat, whole grain rice, cauliflower, other beans or hard-boiled eggs. Yellow and orange foods may include squash, cheese, peaches, oranges, bananas or carrots.

The options are endless, so be creative! This activity can be great for preschoolers as they are learning to identify colors as well.

I know I look forward to enjoying time with my family and friends through the holidays and hope you all do, too! Let’s make this year a new year of healthy traditions and passing those habits on to our children as well. 


A native of Conway, Katelin Whiddon is a family nurse practitioner at Central Arkansas Pediatrics. She and her husband, Daniel, have two daughters. A graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, she has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.