Are Christmas Treats Bad for Toddlers?

Ideas for Toddler Holiday Christmas Treats - Should I let him have one?
Ideas for Toddler Holiday Christmas Treats - Should I let him have one?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, the season to merry… sentiments that I would bet did not originate from a mother.

There’s pressure to make everything perfect, memorable, and MAGICAL. And as if parenting a toddler wasn’t challenging enough, this time of year brings extra concerns like trying to get your children to eat their green beans when they can see a huge pile of cookies sitting in front of them.  

This begs the question, how strict should you be with your child’s diet over the holidays?  Do you let them indulge or teach restraint?

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Christmas Food for Kids - Does Giving Your Child a Christmas Cookie make you a Bad Mom?

Jo says, “Pass on the Holiday Treats!”

Exhausted? Considering Cry-It-Out?? It's OK. And Jo tells you why.Personally, I stay strict with our children’s diet year-round… and yes, that includes during the holiday season.  

I realize that for most adults and kids alike, the holidays are a time to ditch regular food and indulge in items you wouldn’t normally have.  Cookies, pies, eggnog, rib roast, cheeseballs…. the list goes on and on!  

However for the past couple of years I’ve tried to restrain from all these holiday “extras”.  Let’s be honest, my thighs don’t really need the extra calories and I don’t want them introduced to my toddler either.

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My Kids Are Great Eaters.  

I love seeing the shocked look on people’s faces when my kids ask for seconds on green beans or happily slurp down their chicken curry.  

People say I got “lucky”, but I honestly believe it’s because I worked hard to instill good and consistent eating habits from the start.  

To me, once we back down and allow sweets – there’s no going back.

Controlling your toddler’s diet is easy – they don’t know how much amazing food is out there!  They don’t know about the wonderfulness of bananas foster or hot fudge brownie sundaes.

Instead, my kid is super happy he got an extra cherry tomato on his plate.  

Why would I want to ruin that???

I know the day will come when they learn about all the other food that’s out there, but they’re content now so what’s the point?  

Christmas Food for Kids - Does Giving Your Child a Christmas Cookie make you a Bad Mom?

Kids Eating Healthy Encourages the Whole Family

Personally, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but I am a sucker for rich foods like cream soups and macaroni and cheese.  I’ve always hated this weakness, and I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to establish good eating habits from an early age in my children.  Major bonus, it makes me eat healthier too!  

Kids learn by example, so they see when you eat a candy bar instead of the veggies on your plate.  Therefore, I find myself eating healthier and avoiding bad food choices around them.  

Part of healthy eating is not indulging too much over the holiday season. 

It’s considered “normal” in our society to gain weight over the holidays.  

This is despite the fact that it’s been proven multiple times that weight fluctuations can be worse for your health than being consistently a few pounds over weight year-round.

For me, the easiest and healthiest option is for the whole family to stick to our regular diet.  

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Holiday “Treats” Don’t Have To Be Junk Food

One of Ry’s favorite “treats” is baked apples with a little bit of cinnamon and a small dollop of freshly whipped cream.  He calls it “apple pie”, naive child. 

Maybe you don’t let your toddler have fruit until the end of their meal, well at Christmas you could let them have it with their regular food.  

Or maybe for the holidays you make your usual everyday whole-wheat carrot pancakes (what, just me?) in the shape of snowmen.  That way you still get the treat aspect without the junk.  

For me it’s about what’s easiest and healthiest over the holidays.  And that means being consistent, no extra junk they wouldn’t normally have over the year.  

Once you introduce some things, there’s no going back.  And when my child is happily enjoying the holidays without sweets, why would I want to introduce something that would give me a headache later?  

Rachel asks, “Do you feel
pressure from family/friends
to give holiday treats and
how do you deal with it?”

Jo discussesNot really.  My mom tells me all the time to stop being “that mom”, but I ignore her and do what I want.  

It is absolutely essential to make your food intentions known ahead of time.

At this point, my whole family knows that I can be pretty crazy and my kid’s diets, and they have learned to ask me before giving them anything.  During the holidays, they might ask me about a special treat (like a cookie or candy cane) but I simply tell them no.  Then I look away really fast so I don’t see them rolling their eyes at me.

If you choose this approach, you have to expect judgement from some friends and family.  Although honestly, families also judge when you give kids too many sweets during the holidays, so it’s really hard to win.  

The hard part is that I can’t take dessert away from everyone else at the party.  I have two tricks I employ during dessert time:

First, I let the kids be excused after dinner to play so they won’t see when the sweets are consumed. 

Second, if they happen to see everyone happily munching on Aunt Nancy’s famous triple layer chocolate cake – I try to make an “alternative” dessert like I mentioned before. Some examples I’ve used are strawberries with a little whipped cream, yogurt with granola/blueberries, and applesauce sprinkled with cinnamon.  

Christmas Food for Kids - Does Giving Your Child a Christmas Cookie make you a Bad Mom?

Rachel says, “Let Your Kid Have a Cookie!”

We try to eat relatively healthy most of the time, but for the holidays, I make an exception.

A little sugar for a special occasion won’t be the end of the world. I also believe that we’re helping him learn moderation by setting the example of healthy limits.

Let Them Celebrate With the Rest of the Family

My son is a great eater and he rarely gets sweets or treats: a fact that regularly draws criticism from family.

I’m not sure why everyone wants desperately to give him sweets, but they are determined. And it’s SUPER hard to stop a grandma with candy.

Most of the year, I spend a lot of time and energy telling people they can’t feed him this or that, cake or cookies, juice or soda. It is difficult enough to set these boundaries and I find it too much to keep this up at the holidays.

I feel horrible telling my toddler that he can’t have any pie as he watches every single other person eat it.

Instead, I opt to give him a very small piece.

When I say small, I mean seriously small… so small that I still get grief from family that it is all I’m giving him.

But at least he gets to feel included in the celebration.

Christmas Food for Kids - Does Giving Your Child a Christmas Cookie make you a Bad Mom?

Teaching Moderation

I myself have a terrible sweet tooth and a huge weakness for Christmas cookies.

I like to bake cookies, almost as much as I like to eat them, so I know they will be part of our holidays.

I’d be a terrible hypocrite stuffing my face as I told my toddler “no cookies”.

Instead, I prefer to say “we can each have one” or even “we can split one”.

I struggle with setting these types of limits for myself and find that this actually helps me as well.

Yes, after that first cookies is gone he will most likely ask for more, but I just repeat the limit.

Both of us get to have a treat, while not completely derailing our health.

I don’t want to completely avoid a food I like because it’s bad. I’d rather have the self control to only eat it in moderation. These are important skills that I also want to be able to model for my son so he can learn the same.

Christmas Food for Kids - Does Giving Your Child a Christmas Cookie make you a Bad Mom?

Treats Make the Holidays a Special Time

Since we don’t make a habit of eating sweets, I try to emphasize the “specialness” of the occasion.

I don’t want to start a habit of cookies every day or dessert after every meal. For us, a big party with lots of family is an exciting event, so a special treat in that environment does not necessarily carry over to our normal routine.

Alternatively, this could mean letting someone else give him the treat. For instance, if he begins to associate his great aunt with cookies, but we only see her once or twice a year, it’s not really a problem.

Despite our general efforts to eat healthy, I think it’s OK to loosen up a bit at the holidays.

Food is part of many holiday celebrations, and I don’t want to exclude my son.

I’d prefer to use the holidays as an opportunity to teach self control. Yes, he has some cake on his birthday, pie on thanksgiving, and cookies on Christmas. This has yet to impact his overall eating habits.

Jo asks, “Does your kid
ask for sweets at other
times of the year?
How do you handle
those situations?”

Rachel discussesOnly if he sees them.

We don’t usually keep cookies, cake, or candy around, so it’s very rare.

Passing the bakery in the store, he’ll occasionally point and ask for something, but he also does that around fruit, cheese, and cheerios.

If we’re in a situation where he’s asking for a sweet and I’m not willing to make an expectation, I offer something else I know he likes. Usually he will gladly accept blueberries or strawberries instead.

One nice thing about the toddler age – mom is still in control (most of the time, at least).  We’re in control of what they eat.  

Actually scratch that, anyone who has a toddler knows you can’t force them to put something in their mouth.  Better to say that we as parents are in control of what they can’t eat.

Whatever your choice, whether it be complete indulgence, strict dieting, or somewhere in between – decide your stance before the holiday season and stick with it.  

Also be mindful that the decision you’ve made affects the both of you.  Meaning, you can’t have a policy of “no Christmas cookies” when your lips are constantly covered in powdered sugar.

Happy Holidays! 

Check out our other holiday-themed debates on the Toddler Christmas Presents Controversy and Toddlers vs. Hectic Holiday Schedules.



About Author

Jo & Rachel

Jo and Rachel first had the idea for 'The Moms At Odds' in 2016 when our babies were turning 2 and we realized that we were very different parents.

As a mom, Rachel immediately felt this strong connection to her son and instantly decided she wanted to become a stay-at-home mom. Though Jo obviously loved her son as well, she counted the days until she could go back to work and interact with other adults.

They both struggled over getting their babies to sleep and while Jo believed in sleep training, Rachel looked for alternatives like dream feeding and no cry methods. As time passed and their children grew older the differences started to really add up – pacifier use, drinking during breastfeeding, organic foods, screen time, diaper brands, and on and on.

During this day and age, it’s so easy to look at our parenting differences as a bad thing. After all, we’ve all seen jokes and articles about “Mommy Wars” over one subject or another. Instead, we choose to embrace our differences and show you that in many areas there is no wrong answer. What works for one family may not work for another, and that’s perfectly fine. We can still all get along and raise perfectly healthy, beautiful children.

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