Santa lists have been evolving daily in our house. My son knows what he wants: a remote control snake. My daughter has waffled between wanting walkie-talkies, a new bed (which she doesn’t need), a hoverboard and now a Fit Bit. Reminding your kid that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and about spending time with your loved ones is a message that I try and drive home. Not to mention telling her she’s eight and doesn’t need to track her fitness journey.

It’s hard to not get suckered into consumerism this time of year, even though our houses are stuffed with things that we don’t need and most of us spend our free time decluttering. So why are we bringing new things into the house? We have a rule at Christmas: you get something in and something has to go out to charity – even if it’s small. I also make my kids write in a gratitude journal every evening – three things they are grateful for like their family, shelter, food and their friends.

Tonight, as we lay in bed with the lights out, my daughter talked about all the fun stuff she wants to do over the holidays – sledding and crafts, making paper snowflakes and reading on the couch and watching movies. I was reminded of the expression “they just want our time.” They might want toys, but they what they really want is our undivided attention.

You can look at this time of year as frenzied, with too many obligations and concerts and holiday baking and go go go. You can get caught up with the Joneses. Or, you can pause and savour the memories you’re making. You can take them skating and bake cookies. You can put on Christmas music. You can beam with pride and Instagram their school concert. You can break out spontaneous dance parties. You can cuddle a little longer at bedtime.

Healthy Attitude, Gratitude and Sugar

Yesterday, while running errands, we want for a latte and a hot chocolate (because it was freezing and mommy needs coffee to stay upright some days). But I noticed that my kids went from normal humans to atrocious little beasts, and it didn’t take a mathematician to see that this occurred with the injection of sugar. We’re going headfirst into a holiday that celebrates with sugar, but we should be aware Canadian kids consume five times the amount of sugar daily than they need. And the worst culprit isn’t the candy canes – it’s every day things like juice.

Diabetes Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Child Obesity Foundation and the World Health Organization have all called on parents to reduce their children’s sugar consumption. This is not to be a Scrooge because it’s nice to have a time of year where we celebrate with our favourite treats. I have been making chocolate mint squares and lemon bars for years, popping them into Christmas tins to give to teachers and friends. It’s an annual tradition that I intend to keep. But I also make energy balls and sweet and spicy nuts. You have to balance out the treats.

What matters is whether Christmas keeps going: Do you get off the sugar bandwagon with your kids once the holidays are over, or do you keep going? We have rising levels of overweight and obese kids in Canada. We have to pay attention, and we all should cut back when the tree comes down and the decorations are stored away until next year. This loops back to experiences and how to spend time with your kids. Make one of your goals for 2018 to be to get active as a family: go up and down the hills, strap on skates, take walks in the woods and bounce on a trampoline on chilly days. Go swimming in public pools in winter and summer, and play active games. Dance.

Moving and eating well can be a year-round endeavour, and you can balance out the overeating during the holidays with exercise – it does help. Even though we are all going to indulge a little bit more this holiday season, if you are conscious and aware then you don’t have to wonder what happened to your pants come January 3rd. You can enjoy treats, but eat well and get your sleep.

Remember, Santa only comes when you are sleeping.

erin-phelan-headshotErin Phelan is a health and fitness professional, personal trainer and writer. Find her at and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.