Yesterday I shared with you some principles that guide me through the holiday season and all the sweets and food it brings my way. Today, I am continuing the conversation by sharing some practical tips that help me make the best choices for my family. You will notice that those principles I mentioned yesterday — walking by faith, loving others, and not casting judgements — undergird these practicals.
When it comes to holiday sweets, I am intentional. When we’re out, I am intentional with the treats I allow my children to enjoy. Sometimes the answer is “yes”. Other times the answer is “not now”, because we know we’ll be having some treats later.
If we’ve already had a treat and are being offered another, sometimes I decline with an explanation. I express genuine gratefulness for their kindness and generosity and then explain that my kids have already had a treat so it would be best for them to not have another right now. Or, sometimes I allow my kids to take the treat but tell them we need to save it for later.
Most people understand you not wanting to over-sugar your kids. If you are gracious and express genuine gratefulness, people are generally not offended.
Since we are offered so many treats when we are out, at home I’m intentional to keep the focus off sweets. Instead I focus on buying and making fun, yummy foods we love that are not sweet (or only just mildly sweet).
Often these treats are foods that are special because I do not ordinarily make or buy them due to time or cost. Some of our favorites include Sourdough Cheese Pretzels, Nutmeg Flips, Sourdough Pancakes (and I add something special like dried cherries or dark chocolate chunks), homemade eggnog, Crunchy Cheese Twists, hot crab dip with sourdough toasts, Skewer Dinners (or snacks), a free-foraging ham from a local farm, Cupcake Carrot Puddings, gourmet cheeses, homemade marshmallows and I always buy a box or two of these satsuma mandarins… they are simply the best!
There are a few traditional, family desserts I make during the holiday season, but even with those I’m intentional. I choose the few I will make this year, and I choose when it’s best to make them.
During the month of December we do a Jesse Tree Advent, where each day an ornament is pulled from a fabric cone. Every few cones, I tuck in a surprise treat along with the ornament. But instead of tucking candy inside, I stick to other treats — a slip of paper telling the kids they get to watch a Christmas movie with Mom and Dad that night, new Christmas pencils for school, Christmas stickers, or a piece of a new Christmas craft we’re going to make.
There are plenty of fun surprises and treats my kids love that are not candy. Candy is easy, but often with just a few minutes of time and thought I can come up with a list of fun, non-sweet treats that will bless my kids.
Fill Them Up!
During the holidays I place an emphasis on filling, nutritious breakfasts. This way, my husband leaves the house full and satisfied, and my kids and I begin our day full and satisfied. Quiche, eggs and sourdough toast, omelets, baked custards (with minimal sweetener, or a savory version), sausages with yogurt smoothies, or sourdough pancakes and bacon.
When you’re full and satisfied you’re less likely to snag a piece of candy from your co-worker’s desk jar, or dive into that stash of dark chocolate in the freezer.
Coupled with our filling breakfasts, I try to prepare extra-nutritious dinners. We load up on the veggies, homemade broths, and quality meats. I know we will be eating (and enjoying!) plenty outside the home that isn’t nourishing and strengthening for our bodies, so I try to ensure that our dinners in the home are extra nutritious during this season.
Keep Healthy Snacks Readily Available
As I mentioned before, I always buy a box or two of these mandarins which are similar to clementines. Their flavor and sweetness is superior to any clementine or citrus I’ve ever bought from a store, and my kids love them. (And that’s not an affiliate link, they’re just truly that delicious!)
Along with the mandarins, I try to keep plenty of other healthy snacks easily available. My kids love grabbing an apple, clementinem or a little trail mix for a snack, or even for an after dinner treat. A simple orange can satisfy that desire for something sweet at night. When healthy snacks are around, it’s far easier to opt for the healthy choice and be satisfied with it.
Spread The Wealth
We always end up with an excess of sweets. When we get a bunch of Christmas cookies, I freeze a portion right away, and then I pull them out a month or so later for times of hospitality — if we are having a meeting at our house or friends are coming over. Those Christmas cookies are often much more appreciated in January or February when all the sweets have disappeared!
If any treats are getting old, I just pitch them. Don’t feel like you have to eat every single thing given to you. I’m not tossing because I’m not appreciative — we make a point of enjoying a little bit of everything given to us, grateful to whomever sent it our way. But most years we just simply receive far more than we can consume.
If you’re headed to a friends’ house, bring some of your excess along with you if you think it will bless them. Some people receive very few food gifts depending on their work environment, relationships or where they live, and some people love sweets and consume more of them.
I’ve brought over a plate of goodies and explained that we just had more than we could eat, so I’m sharing. And I pointed out my favorites: so-and-so made these and they’re really good! If you’re heart is in the right place and you are sharing from your abundance, others will sense that and be appreciative.
A Few More Tips
If your family goes trick-or-treating or attends a harvest party, consider letting your kids keep a small amount of candy and then add the rest to the bowl of candy you’re giving away to others. Also, consider giving out non-candy treats. Our neighbors handed out stickers, tatoos and pencils last year, and those were some of all the kids’ favorite treats!
When your kids get a lot of candy or treats, consider the option of trading in portions of candy for non-sugar treats — you make their favorite (healthy) dessert, a new book, a date with Mom or Dad, a family movie night, a new toy or game. You know what your kids love. Make it a good trade!
Create a holiday event for you and your friends (or your kids and their friends) that doesn’t include sweets. You plan and organize it. Make a holiday craft together, make homemade bread together, or take gifts to your local nursing home.
So many wonderful activities can be planned during the holiday season — which do not have to include sweets. Take the initiative and plan one!
Have A Plan
As with pretty much every aspect of life, having a plan is crucial to success. Don’t let the Great Sugar Deluge take you out! Take a few minutes now to come up with a plan for how you will handle the inevitable. So you can meet it head-on with grace, joy, love, and faith.