We spend 11 months of the year trying to get the littles on a healthy eating regime. Then the holidays roll around, and chaos ensues. Turkey cookies! Gingerbread houses! Hanukkah gelt! We consulted Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist Jessica Lehmann—she’s a lecturer at the School of Nutrition & Health Promotion at Arizona State University, and a mom of three boys—for some sound advice on how to keep ‘em on the right track (without being a total buzzkill).

Treats and sweets are pretty much everywhere we look from now through January. How do we maintain some semblance of sanity in the nutrition department? 

First off, keep your little ones on a regular meal schedule so they don’t get overly hungry when confronted with the sweets. Set simple rules about when and where it’s OK to eat special treats—for example, after lunch or dinner, and while sitting down with mom or dad, and after washing hands. This will help cut down on the treats being eaten on the run.

Any guidelines when it comes to quantities of the sweet stuff?
Don’t stress about a small daily dessert; 80/20 is a good rule for kids and adults of all ages. Just try to feed your child mostly nutritious foods throughout the day: lots of vegetables and fruits, plus whole grains, beans, low-fat dairy, seafood, and lean meat.

Time at the table tends to last for a little bit (OK, a lot) longer at holiday meals. Any tricks for getting tots to roll with it?
Try to explain to them what the expectations are beforehand, and make sure that they’re well-rested. Come prepared with quiet diversions like small toys and plenty of paper and crayons. You can also add a mealtime activity that the littles can participate in, like opening fortune cookies and wearing homemade crowns.