A Real Gift For Your Family

Think of the holidays, and one of the first words that comes to mind is family time. Of course, the holidays are also a time for gift giving. This year, in addition to the iPod, hoodies, and snowboards your kids may have on their want lists, how about gifting them with some great examples of a healthy lifestyle. After all, much of the job of a parent is to set a great example for the younger generation—and not just during the holiday season—but also long term.

Remember, there's a clear relationship between parents' eating habits and those of their children. And, as you probably know, if you're overweight, your children are statistically far more likely to be overweight themselves than if you have your weight under control.

If one or more of your youngsters or adolescents already has a weight problem, you probably approach the holiday season with mixed emotions. Yes, it's a time of festivity and family fun, but it's also when healthy habits that have been carefully honed for months can fall by the wayside. You already know that the key to any successful weight-loss program is to be able to maintain that weight loss over time. And no time is more difficult to lose or maintain weight than during the holiday season.

So if you (and perhaps your kids) have been eating well and banishing some excess baggage over the last few months, the last thing you want to do it gain some or all of it back over the holidays. Nor do you want to give any encouragement to the naysayers who claim that a low-carb diet doesn't work because as soon as you go off the “diet," you gain the weight back. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Of course anyone will regain lost weight he resumes eating sugary foods and other unhealthy carbohydrates. This result actually proves that a low-carb diet works! But rather than finding that out the hard way, planning ahead can help the whole family stay on track during the holidays. These tips should help you (and hopefully your whole family) navigate through a season full of temptation and strengthen habits that signal a healthy lifestyle:

Stay committed. In the hectic weeks between Halloween and New Year's Day, anticipating and planning ahead is critical. Keep the right food in the house, including some great low-carb treats you can substitute for much of the sugary seasonal offerings.

Eat at home before going to holiday parties. Most gatherings offer lots of food choices, but they tend to be heavy on candies and other sweets that are high in carbohydrate content. If you eat a high-protein meal before the event, you won't be as hungry and therefore less likely to over-indulge at the party.

Bring dessert. Holiday treats don't have to be high in carbohydrates. There are many tasty, easy-to-prepare reduced-carbohydrate recipes available. Start with a fresh berry tart topped with homemade whip cream! Visit atkins.com for this recipe and more!

Chew gum. A piece or two of sugar-free gum often reduces cravings for sweets.

Brush more frequently. Brushing teeth, especially right after meals, also keeps the sweet tooth at bay.

Finally, avoid guilt trips at all costs. No one is perfect day in and day out. Bad days are going to happen so don't beat up on yourself. On the other hand, don't let one bad day turn into three or four. If you weight to get back on the wagon until after the holidays, your job will be that much harder.

One more thing: Elementary schools have numerous parties, year round, and they always involve snacks, the majority of which are almost always pure sugar. If your child is on a special diet, how can he or she participate without feeling singled out or capitulating to the sugar orgy? Discuss your child's diet with the teacher before such events occur. Most teachers will be receptive and helpful. Bring alternative snacks, such as low-carb candy bars, that the teacher can pass out to your child as an alternative to junk foods. Encourage teachers not to use food or candy as rewards.

Follow these tips, and you and your family can enjoy the festivities of fall and winter, without undermining your commitment to a healthy lifestyle. And hopefully, the kids will learn from your experiences and attitude. After all, there's no gift like good health.