The holidays can be a stressful (and exciting!) time for all of us, and this year, the coronavirus pandemic presents extra challenges to how we normally would celebrate and interact. Wintertime and the holidays are also a time when there is an increase in unhealthy eating, as well as possible risk of infection (i.e. gastrointestinal bugs). With that in mind, here are seven tips for keeping your kids’ digestive systems healthy over the holidays:

  1. Practice frequent and adequate hand hygiene.
  2. Decreased time spent with other children may decrease your child’s susceptibility to other infections. However, if antibiotics are needed for a bacterial infection this winter, consider the use of a probiotic as well to promote gastrointestinal health.
  3. Holidays are a time to indulge in some sweets and junk food! Just make sure to set limits, and provide your child with healthier options when possible. Consider having them help with food preparation and use it as a time to provide education about healthier substitutions. Make sure to offer plenty of fruits and vegetables with holiday meals.
  4. Keep normal eating patterns. Keeping your normal eating schedule helps allow your child time to enjoy holiday favorites without overeating.
  5. Slow down and relax as a family! We know there is a strong connection between the brain and the gut, so making time for yourself and your family to slow down and relax will also help keep your child’s gastrointestinal system happy and “relaxed.”
  6. Stay active! This will help with overall gastrointestinal health. With the temperatures dropping, it may be difficult to find ways to stay active outdoors. Consider organized family activities inside (i.e. dancing or family fun workout videos on YouTube), or appropriate outside activities, such as a walk through the neighborhood to see all the holiday lights!
  7. Try your best to keep kids on a regular schedule even with the break from school, to make the transition back to school after the holidays easier.

I hope these tips will help keep your child’s gut in good health this holiday season!


Jessica Stafford, PNP-C, is a nurse practitioner at PSV in gastroenterology. She received her master’s in nursing at Johns Hopkins University, and now lives with her husband and their dog in Arlington, VA.
Pediatric Specialists of Virginia is a medical group created by Children's National Hospital and Inova Health System to be focused exclusively on caring for children. Our specialists are recognized as “Top Docs” by Washingtonian and Northern Virginia Magazine and have appeared in U.S. News & World Report as leading experts in their fields.

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