Alison Sweeney talks to us about fun and healthy ways to prep for the holidays with your kids
Known for her long time role as Samantha “Sami” Brady on the daytime soap, Days of Our Lives, Alison Sweeney is kicking butt both on and off screen. The seasoned actress keeps busy as a host, author, and director — but what we’re especially excited about at the moment is her advice on how to prep for the holidays with kids!
And she knows what she’s talking about. As a working mother of two to Ben and Megan, Ali shared some amazing (and easy) tips for keeping things healthy and stress-free. Take some notes!
Alison Sweeney: I love to be busy, so that certainly helps me to work on a balance — and some days are more effective than others. For my family and me, the holidays are less about consuming tremendous amounts of food, and more about quality time together, and being active because my husband and I don’t have as hectic of work schedules to manage [at that time].
We all go hiking before Thanksgiving, for example, or go skiing for a few days around Christmas… We use the time to plan fun active adventures to do as a family. We also make plenty of healthy options for our meals, so we fill ourselves with tons of good foods and limit our splurges to those family traditions that you can’t say no to (like my mom’s red velvet cake!).
AS: Thanksgiving is always about getting our family together, and all helping in the kitchen to prepare what we’re having to eat. I love finding healthier ways to make some of our favorite dishes, and Ben and Megan love helping me prep the meals. We also make a point to get outside. While we definitely don’t experience the cold like much of the country, there’s something really fun about bundling up and taking a family walk together. There are still lots of delicious not-so-healthy options at our table, but we focus on portion control, getting a little bite of everything, rather than leaving the table feeling overly-stuffed.
AS: My kids and I love decorating for the holidays. We really make a point to have the house be festive for Halloween, fall, and Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah. To come home to decorations always makes the time of year even more special.
AS: I love all the specials that I’m doing for Food Network. They’re inspiring me to have my kids in the kitchen preparing meals with me, and I’m constantly amazed at how talented all of the kids are. The Christmas Cookie Challenge will air November 28th at 8 p.m., and then the Kids Sweets Showdown will begin November 30th at 8 p.m. And all of these shows are so great for family viewing, and my kids love that I’m part of them.
AS: I’m always trying new recipes, and making my own changes to recipes we love… My time on every cooking show inspires me to get even more creative in the kitchen myself.
AS: I’m constantly inspired by new recipes, and love experimenting with fresh ingredients. I love taking one ingredient and seeing how many different types of dishes can be made [with it]. For example, I’m focused on frozen blueberries these days. The smoothie bowl was one of our favorites, but the kids also loved making blueberry muffins and pancakes. If we’re in a rush for breakfast, sometimes I’ll just throw together some Greek yogurt, sprinkle a little agave syrup on it with some cinnamon, and toss in a handful of frozen blueberries. So good for you and so delicious.
AS: I think it’s really just about making kids aware at an early age that holidays aren’t about treats, they’re about quality time together. My kids are both so smart in understanding the importance of healthy foods and that treats are just that, treats. We all enjoy tons of healthy foods and then we splurge from time to time as well.
AS: First: Keep it simple! There’s all this pressure over the holidays to put on a big show when it comes to meals, but all you need is a classic recipe, a few new ingredients for a fun twist, and that’s it.
Second: Try one ingredient — like we are with frozen blueberries — and have your kids help you in coming up with the many different ways to use it for all meals. Having your kids be part of the prep and planning is a great way to spend time together and get dinner ready at the same time.
Third: Have food ready to go. Sometimes the holiday schedule gets crazy, so if you’ve already prepped breakfast bars or have trail mix ready to take for a snack, you won’t be starving when you get to the party — you’ve been able to grab healthy choices throughout the day.