The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


December 11, 2013

Amanda Stone: Holiday treats can be healthy

CARTHAGE, Mo. — The holidays are a time for indulgence for everyone, kids included. As adults, we usually know when we're making food choices that are questionable. Kids need guidance with their holiday goodies.

I'm not trying to Grinchify your kids' Christmas. But the holidays and all the treats that go with them last for several weeks. It's easy for people to get used to a steady flow of goodies, especially kids. Candy canes and cookies are thrust into their mitten-covered hands at every turn.

It's a great time of year to remind your kids that healthy food is good for their bodies. It gives them more energy and keeps them strong.

Make sure that treats are just that -- treats. Bring a platter with cheese, veggies, fruit and olives arranged in a Christmas tree shape. Fill kids' plates with whole foods such as nuts, popcorn, cheese, whole-grain crackers, and veggies and fruit with dip.

After everyone's tummies are full of good food, it's time for treats. Steer kids toward healthier snacks such as strawberries and pretzels dipped in dark chocolate, fruit kabobs skewered with a marshmallow, waffle-cone bowls filled with fruit and whipped cream or sliced strawberries and bananas arranged on a plate to look like a candy cane. Choose a hunk of dark chocolate bark with nuts and dried fruit, or opt for a whole-wheat gingerbread man. And don't underestimate the power of sprinkles -- they make everything more desirable.

If you're holding the party at your house, take advantage of your power. Cute, festive finger foods are the key to making healthy choices more attractive. Make Christmas trees out of pizza slices or pita triangles smeared with pesto and top with a star cut from a yellow bell pepper. Serve pinwheels made from spinach tortillas, cream cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. Crustless mini quiches with chopped red and green bell peppers look festive as well.

Stick to whole grains when making desserts. Serve banana muffins disguised as cupcakes with a dollop of whipped cream and a marshmallow snowman on top. Make whole-wheat cut-out cookies, then brush them with a thin layer of frosting and sprinkles. A pretty presentation will entice kids to eat healthier snacks without giving it a second thought. If they don't love it and choose not to eat it all, who cares? Go play.

Call the kids into the kitchen so they can help in preparing the holiday fare. They will want to eat everything they had a hand in creating. Even small children can use cookie cutters to turn sandwiches into party food. Get the kids involved, and try these recipes for your next holiday gathering.


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