Low/No Sugar Ways to Celebrate the Holidays with Your Kids

Be Well Living
Low/No Sugar Ways to Celebrate the Holidays with Your Kids

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And the sweetest, literally.

Staggering amounts of sugar circulating in Christmas cookies, candy canes, hot cocoa and more might leave you wondering – How can I celebrate the holidays with my kid in a low-or-no sugar way? Maybe you’re not sure if it’s even possible. 

It is! And I’m here to make your stable blood sugar Christmas wishes come true…

First, a note on my approach. 

Christmas is not completely sugar-free for my family. We’ll be making cookies for Santa (and will probably choose an unrefined sugar). My boys take part in Christmas cookie and hot cocoa parties at the library, and we don’t always say no when a mom from school brings donuts for the class.

What I do try to ensure is that we keep our home celebrations as low sugar as possible. With such a massive increase in external sugar surrounding the holidays, I pull from a long list of ways to celebrate at home sans all the added sugar.

But ‘tis the season. Why not?

Why not just let loose? After all, the holidays only come once a year. Also, if I try to cut the sugar, won’t my kid feel left out?

I hear you. And I’ve been there. I’ve been concerned about being “that mom.” Until I realized how much joy we could pack into our holidays without everything revolving around sweets and treats.

Here’s what I’ve realized. I’m the gatekeeper. It’s my responsibility to make the holidays magical and memorable for my child. I know what my child acts and feels like when he’s had too much sugar, and that’s not what I want for his holiday experience.

Overconsumption of sugar is associated with impaired immune system function (something none of us need this time of year!), heightened risk for hyperactivity and exacerbation of ADHD-like symptoms, increased inflammation, and reduced energy and fatigue

These aren’t things I want for my kid any time, and they’re especially not the feelings and experiences I want him to hold as his holiday memories.

If not sugar, then what?

As parents, we all want to do the best for our kids. And I honestly think that’s why we sometimes resort to sugar. We don’t know a better alternative to the Christmas cookie marathon followed by the mug of cocoa and overflowing marshmallows. So in the name of trying to be festive and fun, we oblige.

When I find myself doing things my beliefs don’t necessarily align with just because it’s tradition or “fun” or everyone else is doing it, I like to step back for a minute and ask the question, “Could there be another way?” I always want to parent in a way that’s aligned with my beliefs and hopes for my child.

When it comes to the holidays, I’ve found a bunch of better ways to be festive and fun, merry and memorable…but still protect my child’s health. And yes, that means keeping sugar to a minimum. 

These are some of the ways we make magic during the holidays:

    • Christmas sheets on everyone’s beds → These are affordable when you consider that you buy them once and reuse them every year! And they can be easily stored in the Christmas decorations box. 
    • Elf on the Shelf → If you’re not creative, Pinterest has enough ideas to keep your elf on the move and into mischief all season long. I don’t really read the book or let my kids think that the elf is tattling on them. Mostly, we use it as an opportunity to highlight the things they’re doing well. For example, I’ll say, “I noticed you opened the door for that woman at the grocery store or helped clear the table!” And in case you’re wondering, our elf’s name is Bob.
    • Advent Calendars → These provide a fun way to anticipate Christmas and give the littlest kiddos a good visual for how many days until the big day. If your kids are like mine, they might love a Lego or National Geographic calendar. 
    • Annual “memorable moment” ornament → Every year, each of my sons picks out an ornament for something he accomplished that year or a memorable moment he had. This year, Sebastian got a football ornament because he went to his first UCLA football game with Chris. I got our family pineapple ornament for our first trip to Kauai. Eventually when the boys are grown, I’ll pass all of their special ornaments down to them so they have meaningful ornaments for their first tree. It’s also just a great way to remember the accomplishments or the fun we had throughout the year. 
    • Make your normal food festive → A veggie crudité board can be a Christmas tree, and with some Primal Kitchen dip or dressing (use code KELLYSFAVORITES), you’ve got an instant winner. Otherwise, you can find a hundred and one ways to turn celery into reindeer, strawberries into Santa hats and beyond. 
    • Make ornaments → Put those cookie cutters to good use by making salt dough ornaments or cinnamon dough ornaments. These make adorable little gifts as well. 
    • Hot chocolate and Christmas lights night → One of my favorite nights of the year is when we make hot chocolates and load up to look at Christmas lights while jamming to holiday music. Find a festive neighborhood or be on the lookout for creative places that go above and beyond with lights. We have “harbor nights” where the boats are decorated in Dana Point and Newport Beach. I bought these cups for smoothies, but they’re also the best for hot chocolate on the go!
    • Hot cocoa, but healthy → Speaking of hot chocolate, we love a good, cozy cup sans the added sugar. I like to either use a chocolate LMNT or BWBK Chocolate Protein Powder to make it both delicious and blood sugar friendly. 
    • Bring some focus back to the meaning → While we aren’t able to make it to the boys’ school mass every Friday throughout the year, we make an extra effort during the month of December. Leading up to Christmas, it’s really important to Chris and I that we’re at the school church setting an example for our boys and communicating the reason behind the season. 
    • Christmas movie night → While we don’t utilize screens often with our boys, we love a good family snuggle session while watching some Christmas classics. 
    • Santa plates and other holiday tableware → These turn any meal into a celebration. And I’m pretty sure kids are more likely to eat veggies off a Santa plate than a plain one!
    • Christmas music → We’re the family that has it on nonstop. Whether we’re in the car or at home, my boys request their favorite songs on repeat. Family dance party optional. Bash loves Up on the Housetop and Taschen loves Christmas Morning.
    • Christmas socks → My boys love throwing on Christmas socks to add a little festive flair to their school uniforms. But these are truthfully fun for anytime. Bonus if mom and dad get in on the Christmas sock action. 
    • Christmas crafts → I’m not a self-professed crafty mom, but anything for the kids! A quick Google or 5 minutes on Pinterest and you’ll be ready to go. Pinterest has taught me and my boys how to turn a paper plate into a Christmas tree, make a bird seed ornament, whip up some holiday play dough, and give Santa the jolliest cotton ball beard you ever did see. 
    • String lights outside and decorate the tree → Kids love hearing stories behind family ornaments, spotting their own faces on the “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments, or remembering when they made a particular ornament with Grandma, at school or with a friend. Decking the halls can be a walk down memory lane and a chance to remind your child of how well-loved he is. 
    • Find a way to make someone else’s Christmas dreams come true → Kids are truly the kindest. And given the chance to get involved, they always do. It might look like drawing Christmas pictures for kiddos at the local hospital, gifting necessities to a local crisis center, or some other small act of kindness. I really encourage my boys to lean into this charity aspect of the season. We always take a day where the boys go through the toys in their room and finding ones to donate. We also like picking out items at the store for toy drives. I think it’s important during this time of year when it’s easy to get so presents-focused that we’re going to a store and they’re not getting to take something home. Instead, they’re doing something for someone else. It’s empowering for a child to be in the position of the helper, and it’s a skill that’s even sweeter to put into action during the holidays. 
    • Parades, Christmas markets, and other local festivities → Check in with your local mom’s group, town bureau, or even your child’s school to find out more about holiday offerings around your town. 
    • Christmas Jammies → Every evening feels photo-worthy when I wrangle my three little guys into their Christmas pj’s. They absolutely love getting all of the Christmas jammies out at the beginning of the season!
    • The Nutcracker or another holiday show → Some of my friends have a years-long tradition of getting all dressed up, going to a nice dinner, and then seeing the Nutcracker live. While it might not currently be my boys’ idea of fun, it could totally be your family’s jam!
    • Healthier alternatives to traditional sweets → And on the note of going lower sugar, there are more than enough alternative but equally delicious recipes on the internet for you to find a healthy dupe recipe for your holiday favorite food. 

You set the tone. 

Remember, your approach to the holidays will absolutely set the tone for your child. I encourage you not to make “having a lower sugar holiday” the focus of this season. It will feel restrictive and disappointing to both you and your child.

Instead, approach the holidays knowing you’re going to fill them with so many magical memories and moments, and all of the extra sugar will hardly be missed. I promise if you’re enthused about your plans for the holidays, your kids can’t help but take some of that excitement on themselves.

I’m cheering you on this holiday season as you plan for beautiful moments and good health for you and your family.