Holidays and the Pandemic: 5 Ways to Avoid a Recipe for Weight Gain - Nemours Blog


Holidays and the Pandemic: 5 Ways to Avoid a Recipe for Weight Gain

Holidays and the Pandemic: 5 Ways to Avoid a Recipe for Weight Gain

Kids tend to gain more weight during extended breaks from school, like over the summer. We’ve seen a similar trend when COVID-19 restrictions were in place. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed kids gained weight more quickly during the early months of the pandemic as compared to the previous year. There are many reasons why, but it seems without the structure of school many kids eat more and move less.

The COVID-19 pandemic really messed up our daily routines. School closures, remote work, and stay-at-home orders meant going to bed later, eating at different times, snacking more, being less active, and spending more time in front of screens.

This fall, things started to get back to normal as children returned to school and other activities. But just as we have gotten back into our routines, here come the holidays.

Holiday weight gain is a concern for many – adults and kids alike. But when it comes to navigating holiday challenges, families can focus on healthy habits while enjoying time with family and friends. Here are some tips to help:

1. Keep the routine going.

Predictable meals and snacks can help manage hunger, and a regular sleep routine can improve quality of sleep, daytime performance, and overall mood. When making a schedule:

  • set regular bed and wake up times
  • plan meal and snack times
  • schedule time to exercise
  • limit screen time

2. Celebrate the day (not the week).

One day of indulging is not the problem – it’s the parties and treats leading up to and after the holidays that really add up. Stick to your healthy eating plan by: 

  • serving balanced meals that include lean protein, whole grains, and fruits and veggies
  • limiting sugary drinks and treats available in the house
  • keeping healthy snacks at hand

3. Enjoy your family traditions – with a healthy twist.

For example:

  • If you bake for the holidays, don’t leave cookies and other treats in easy reach. Wrap them up so they are ready to share with family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Instead of just watching football, organize a touch football game that the family can play together.

4. Make holiday time family time.

Make a list of activities the whole family can do. Some ideas include:

  • family walks, trips to parks, museums, or playgrounds
  • puzzle, game, or movie nights
  • exercising together
  • planning, cooking, and eating healthy meals together

5. Teach your kids about mindful eating.

Taking time to appreciate the look, feel, smell, and taste of food can help everyone slow down, notice when they start feeling full, and enjoy food more.

Here’s to happy – and healthy – holidays!

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Mary Gavin, MD

Mary L. Gavin, MD, is a medical editor at Nemours KidsHealth and a physician in Nemours’ Healthy Weight and Wellness Clinic. She is the author of FitKids: A practical guide to raising healthy and active children — from birth to teens.