By Judy Torel
We live in a culture where consumption runs unchecked. From Halloween through New Year’s Eve, the average American adult gains an average of seven pounds. With the obesity epidemic now spreading to our children, the cultural mindset that we have to have treats and cookies available “for the kids” starts to sound irresponsible if not down right life threatening.
Obviously, the solution is not to eradicate foods that have come to symbolize the enjoyment and flavor of the holidays. Instead, combine the festive consumption of the holidays with activities that result in equal energy expenditure so that our children can learn balance between energy-in and energy-out while still partaking in the foods that make the holidays a special time.
Cut down your own Christmas tree
We live in an area of the country where we have the unique option to actually go and cut down our own tree on a Christmas tree farm. It takes a minimum of one hour to hike into the area and peruse through the selection of naturally growing trees. This is the equivalent of a 300-calorie hike. Add the effort of cutting down the tree and dragging it back to the car where it needs to be tied and secured and your family can partake in a large cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows and avoid weight gain. Don’t forget you have to untie it, put it up in your house and then decorate it. When the last piece of tinsel is in place, a few holiday cookies can be enjoyed knowing that they will not go straight to the hips or the waistlines of our children this year!
Baking cookies and feeding the birds
Most adults have fond childhood memories of afternoons baking holiday cookies and we want our children to have similar memories. One way to counter balance the consumption involved in the cooking process (remember licking the beaters?) is to combine baking with making birdseed ornaments.
On a separate counter, put stale bread, peanut butter, birdseed, a spoon and table knife, yarn, and cookie cutters. Have the kids cut out holiday shapes from stale slices of bread using the cookie cutters. Spread peanut butter on one side of the bread. Sprinkle some birdseed and gently press it into the peanut butter using the back of the spoon. Poke a small hole in the bread ornament and thread a red or green piece of yarn through.
In between placing the sheets of cookies into the oven, have the kids bundle up and go outside to hang the birdseed ornaments in the trees in your yard and possibly your neighbor’s (with approval, of course).
In this way, you are combining a physical activity, a holiday consumption ritual and a pro-active nature project your kids will cherish and probably pass on to their children in the future.
Kid’s fun runs
Even though the weather outside can be frightful, there are still a number of 5K and longer run/walk events. The growing trend is to combine a children’s fun run with an adult run/walk event. There is nothing more thrilling for a child then to participate in a “grown-up” event. After a hearty run, a warm and satisfying meal is all the more enjoyable and your child learns that there is a direct correlation between what goes into their body and how the body is able to perform.
The Adirondack Community College in Queensbury is the home of the Reindeer 5K run and Jr. run for kids. The race will be held on December 10th at 9am. Visit www.adirondackrunners.com for more information.
Or, participate in First Night Albany Jingle Jog Kid’s Fun Run on New Year’s Eve beginning at 2pm. Children ages 5-11 are welcome. For more information visit www.albanyevents.com.
Take your child to the gym
It’s hard enough to find the time to squeeze your own workouts into your schedule during the holidays. But, you could kill many birds with one stone and combine a week night workout and shopping trip with spending time with the kids while teaching positive fitness habits all at the same time.
Many fitness facilities in the Capital District, such as The Sweat Shop, Planet Fitness, Forever Young and Executive Fitness will allow you to occasionally workout with your child who is between 5-13 years old without a formal membership.
This year, grab workout clothes for you and your child and go to the gym together for a treadmill walk or circuit workout on the weight equipment. Afterwards, head to your favorite local stores and get some of your holiday shopping out of the way. For dinner, have a cup of soup, split a hot sandwich and then share a dessert. Your child will learn that the holidays don’t mean aborting your positive fitness practices. Rather, you can enjoy good tasting food in appropriate portions as long as you keep your body active.
Judy Torel, owner of Judy Torel’s Sweat Shop, is available by appointment and phone for lifestyle coaching. You can contact her at 459.6942, www.judytorelsweatshop.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. She is also the fitness consultant for WNYT-News Channel 13.