Give the gift of healthy eating this holiday season.

The holiday season brings parties, family gatherings and other festivities that present opportunities for unhealthy eating. Unplanned desserts, snacks and appetizers can quickly add calories to everyone’s diet.

“No one has to put on extra pounds during the holidays if you plan ahead,” says Christy Gilcrease, MS, RD, LD, dietitian at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Prepare for parties by curbing your children’s appetites with fruits, vegetables and whole grains throughout the day. Don’t skip breakfast or meals before dinner gatherings, and if you’re hosting a dinner of your own, use smaller plates to encourage smarter portion sizes. If your children are still hungry at the end of a meal, encourage them to wait a few minutes before asking for seconds or dessert. This allows for digestion to begin.

“Putting utensils down between bites can also keep you from eating too fast,” Gilcrease says.

While fruit can offer a healthier alternative to typical dessert foods like cake or ice cream, it’s OK to let your children have sweet treats on occasion. Teach them to enjoy certain foods in moderation instead of banning them outright.

“Children are more open to learning than adults are,” Gilcrease says.

If taught early, children can carry healthy eating habits with them for the rest of their lives.