Summer gives us a chance as parents to loosen up, take a break from routines and schedules, and live a little more spontaneously with our kids. But, according to a study recently released from the University of Texas, the lack of routine, decrease in activities, and disruptions in the way we eat during the summer are to blame for our kids gaining weight 2-3 times faster than they do during the school year.
There are simple ways to keep your family’s health and nutrition on track and still enjoy the carefree spirit of summer living:
1. Keep a consistent meal schedule, much like you do during the school year. Kids should eat three square meals with two snacks in between, and they should know that mindless eating throughout the day isn’t smart.
2. Rather than giving into the ease of convenience snacks that are often processed and loaded with sugar, transform ordinary foods into special summery treats by freezing them. Try frozen grapes, cups or sticks of yogurt, homemade juice pops, and fruit smoothies.
3. Prepare and keep meals in the fridge for the sitter to feed your kids or for you to pull out instead of hitting the fast food drive-through on your way home from the pool. Having simple meals ready to go means you won’t have to cut a fun day short so you can rush home to make dinner.
4. Teach your kids about balance. It’s okay to have an ice cream sundae, as long as it’s balanced with healthier choices and plenty of exercise.
5. Limit sedentary activities like TV and electronics, and get everyone active with activities that take advantage of summertime weather. Get outside to ride bikes, go swimming, and for the little ones take the ride-ons and push toys for a spin.
6. Together, search your own kitchen for foods to make an easy, healthy picnic to take on a day-trip or eat in your own backyard. You can build a meal without turning on the stove or pushing buttons on the microwave.
7. Give everyone in your family a personalized water bottle to stay hydrated and stay away from the sugary juices, sodas and energy drinks. Research shows that even very active kids never need sports or energy drinks.
8. Sign your kids up for mini sports camps to stay active and have fun.
9. Get your kids involved with good food. Take them on a trip to the farmer’s market and use the outing as an opportunity to talk about healthy choices. Show them the beautiful array of local produce and let them choose some to try at home.
10. Start a garden – even a small container garden for the patio or windowsill – to get kids involved with growing and caring for fruits and vegetables.
11. Research proves kids are more likely to eat foods they help select and prepare. Let your kids help make a grocery list, find items in the store, and help prepare a meal by cleaning, prepping and cooking with you. Make the tasks age-appropriate so they don’t get injured or overwhelmed.
12. Find indoor activities to keep your family active when it’s too hot to head outside. Living room dance parties work just as well as indoor inflatable play centers, and are even more fun if friends are invited to join in on the fun!