Friday, 23 December 2011

Healthy Ideas For Fun & Gift-Giving For The Holidays

I wrote this last year and it was originally published in the December 2010 issue of Bevery Hills Child Magazine.

Christmas Tree 2011

The coming holiday season doesn't have to mean gaining weight for you or your family. Here are some easy ways to make your holidays healthier and to show your children how to have a fun and healthy time while celebrating without adding any additional calories and fat to your daily life.

1. Make cookies and cakes healthier. Baking cookies and cakes for the holidays is seen as a holiday tradition for most people. An easy way to make healthier versions of cakes and cookies is to eliminate the oil and butter used in most recipes and replace them with yogurt. You can also replace sugar with sweetener.

Here’s a recipe for Snickerdoodle Balls that kids will love making. They will love the mixing and kneading it takes to make these cinnamon flavoured treats!

Snickerdoodle Balls


6oz self-raising flour
3oz low-fat margarine
12 tbsp sweetener
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp fat-free vanilla yogurt
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 egg yolk


-Preheat the oven to 350F.

-Mix the sweetener, flour and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the margarine and rub it in using your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.

-Stir in the yogurt and the egg yolk. Knead the mixture with your hands until it forms a soft dough.

-Divide the mixture into 24 small balls. Place the dough balls on a baking tray sprayed with Pam or other low calorie oil spray. Bake these in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden. Cool before serving.

2. Make cracker and cream cheese houses. Instead of the traditional gingerbread houses, get out some square crackers, and let children use fat-free cream cheese to stick them together, building a house. Cut up carrots and bell peppers for your children to use to decorate their houses.

3. Make “snow sleds” out of cardboard boxes. You only need a cardboard box and some paints for this craft. Your child will love painting the cardboard box to turn it into their pretend sled.

4. Make pick-a-gift jars. Your child can recycle glass jars and paint them with festive colors and pictures. Let your child write down, on colorful pieces of paper, things he will do as gifts, such as mowing the lawn, walking the dog, washing the car, drawing a picture, etc. Fill the jar with these “gifts”, and whomever he chooses to give this gift to can choose one for your child to do until the choices run out. Just make sure the “gifts” your child lists in the jar are age appropriate.

5. Make meringue Christmas trees. Here’s where a little sugar can go a long way. These meringues do not hold a lot of calories as they are very small, and you can make them healthier by using sweetener in pace of sugar in the recipe.

Christmas Tree Meringues


3 large eggs, whites only
2 ½oz powdered sugar
3 ½oz caster sugar or 3 ½ oz sweetener
green food coloring


-Preheat the oven to 260F Fan.

- Mix together caster sugar and icing sugar/sweetener.

-Put 3 large eggs whites in a clean bowl, add a few drops of green food coloring and whisk until the mixture forms stiff glossy peaks.

-Add the sugar mixture, one spoonful at a time, whisking until stiff again between each addition.

-Spoon the mixture into a freezer bag and snip the corner and make a hole. Line the baking tray with wax paper and pipe out the meringue to make blobs that get narrower as they go up with the peaks at the top.

-Decorate the meringue tree with silver balls all over it.

6. Serve up a healthy lasagna. This is great because you can make several of these, your child can have fun helping you layer the ingredients, and the lasagne can be frozen to be cooked whenever it is needed. Use disposable foil pans. Let your child join you as you take a lasagna to someone you know could use the helping hand for the holidays this year.

7. Volunteer. Volunteering, and not only letting your child see you volunteering, but letting your child volunteer too, is a great way to teach good values to your child. You can volunteer with your child at a soup kitchen or a food bank. You can help wrap gifts for one of the many charities that deliver toys to children in need over the holidays. There are many ways that you and your child can volunteer and help make the world a little brighter for someone else during this holiday season.

8. Make colourful paper chains and Christmas bows out of ribbon to decorate around the house. Your child will have fun being creative with these kids of simple projects. Let her decide where to decorate.



You can even make tiny bell ornaments out of egg cartons, pipe ceaners, paint and bells. Just cut the bumps out of the egg cartons, poke a hole through the top of each one, and, using pipe cleaners, create loops through the “bells” to hang them from your Christmas tree, sliding jingle bells through the loops on the inside of the egg carton “bells.” Your child can make these or you can make them and your child can paint and decorate them.

9. Make do-it-yourself healthy trail mix snacks. Use granola, raisins, yogurt covered dried strawberries, whole grain Cheerios, mini (unsalted) pretzels and cashews or peanuts. Put everything out and give your child a small sandwich bag. Let your child choose which of the ingredients he wishes to add to his bag and then he can shake it all up inside the bag. Then he can either eat it or tie a ribbon around it to give as a gift.




10. Make your own ornaments out of homemade clay using cookie cutters and acrylic paints. You can make homemade clay using flour, salt and water. Roll it out until it is about ½ inch thick. Get out cookie cutters, preferably Christmas-themed, and your child can cut make as many as they can fit onto the surface. Using a sharp pencil, poke a small hole through the top of each one. Once these are done baking until they are hardened, paint them all white on both sides using white acrylic paint. When the paint dries, your child can use different colors of acrylic paints to make each ornament colourful and unique. When the ornaments are dried, put a tiny ribbon or string through the holes in the top of each one and tie it into a loop. Now the ornaments are ready to either be hung on the tree or to be wrapped as presents.

Salt Clay


2 cups plain flour
1 cup salt
1 to 1 ½ cups cold water
2 tbsp vegetable oil


-Stir ingredients together. Knead it together well until it forms a soft ball.

-Cut out the cookie shapes.

-Bake in the oven at 300F for an hour or until hard.

Whatever you choose to do for the holidays, just remember that the holidays can be fun and healthy for you and your children. Happy holidays!

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