Baking & Desserts

Healthy holiday treats for kids

By: Dr. Joey Shulman

Author: Canadian Living

Baking & Desserts

Healthy holiday treats for kids

By: Dr. Joey Shulman

'Tis the season, again! The season for cakes, cookies, candies and eggnog, that is. They can fill up your child with refined sugar in no time. Unlike adults, children usually do not have the verbal skills to properly express any unpleasant feelings they experience from eating too much of the wrong foods.

Oftentimes, an excess of refined flours and sugars results in a food "high," causing children to act out and be hyperactive or overly silly, followed by a food crash, with symptoms like fatigue, moodiness and irritability.

In addition to affecting your child's behaviour and mood, too much sugar also has effects on a child's health, which can include:

Weight gain. Eating too much refined sugar and flour found in shortbread, cookies, cakes and white bread facilitates the excess storage of fat in the body.

Suppressed immune system function. Eating too much white sugar dramatically reduces the number of white blood cells (leucocytes) in the body that are necessary to fight off infection.

Tips for healthy eating
In order to keep the holidays fun and tasty and keep your child from thinking you are the Sugar Scrooge, follow these healthy holiday eating tips:

1. Go for natural sugars
It's easy to tell if a food item contains white sugar. When reading a label, simply look for the words ending in the suffix -ose, such as high fructose, maltose and sucrose. Corn syrup should also be avoided. When selecting sugars, it is best to select those that are unrefined and therefore contain more fibre and nutrients. Examples are fruit (like apple sauce), maple syrup, honey, date sugar, sucanat and barley malt syrup.

2. Bake with "sweet spices"
When baking, use "sweet" spices, such as vanilla and almond extracts, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, to add flavour to cookies.

3. Keep cut-up fruits and vegetables on the table
You child is more likely to eat fruits and vegetables when they are easy to eat and always available. Cut-up apples, pineapple slices, strawberries and pears are a terrific treat for children with a little dark chocolate drizzled over top. Carrot sticks, celery, broccoli and cucumber slices are perfect for dipping into hummus or ranch dip or with a bit of grated cheese melted over top.

Page 1 of 2 -- Find an easy holiday cookie recipe on page 2

4. Get rid of sugary pop or juice
Soft drink consumption has doubled in the past 25 years. It is estimated that the average child consumes a whopping 29 teaspoons of added refined sugar per day! The average can of pop contains between 9 and 11 teaspoons of sugar. A recent study appearing in the Journal of Pediatrics from Cornell University found that children who drank more than 12 ounces of sweetened drinks a day gained significantly more weight over a two-month period than children who drank less than 6 ounces a day.

Sweet drinks were defined as soda or pop, fruit punch, bottled teas or drinks made from fruit-flavoured powders such as grape or lemonade. Cutting excess calories by changing a child's beverages is one of the easiest ways to help them maintain a healthy body weight and keep down sugar intake. Replace sugary drinks with watered-down natural fruit juices or water.

5. Follow the 80-20 rule of eating
Kids are kids and will fall off the healthy eating wagon -- especially around the holiday season. I am an advocate of not being too stringent when it comes to their diet. Allow them to indulge in the occasional goody that you would normally never bring into your house.

In other words, if they are at a family holiday party, allow them the treats 20 per cent of the time and have them eat healthier choices 80 per cent of the time. By doing so, you will avoid food binges or food battles and they will not experience feelings of deprivation.

Looking for a "healthier" holiday cookie? Simply follow the recipe below and enjoy!

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies
by The Canadian Living Test Kitchen
Makes 50 cookies

In bowl, beat together peanut butter, honey, sugar and butter until light and fluffy; beat in eggs and vanilla.

In separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt ; gradually stir into peanut butter mixture. (Batter can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)

Drop by tablespoonfuls (15 mL), about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart, onto greased rimless baking sheets; using tines of fork, gently flatten in crisscross pattern to 1/4-inch (5 mm) thickness. (Can be frozen on baking sheets until firm, then transferred to freezer bags and frozen for up to 3 weeks. Do not thaw before baking; add 1 minute to baking time)

Bake in top and bottom thirds of 375°F (190°C) oven, switching pans halfway through, for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Nutritional infomation per cookie:
Cal 84, pro 2 g, total fat 4 g, sat. fat 1 g, carb 12 g, fibre 1 g, chol 12 mg, 80 mg sodium % RDI: - calcium 1% iron 3% vit A 2% folate 3% 

Click here to add this recipe to your Recipe Box.

Dr. Joey is the author of Winning the Food Fight (Wiley, 2003) and national bestseller The Natural Makeover Diet (Wiley, 2006). For more information, visit

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Baking & Desserts

Healthy holiday treats for kids