The long, lazy days of summer have finally arrived. School's out and jam-packed schedules have given way to freedom and fun! But for many kids, the lack of structure adds up to summertime weight gain. With childhood obesity rates soaring and more and more schools sending home report cards on a child's weight, it's important to understand how you can keep your child healthy and fit this summer.
The good news is that summer is an ideal time to make healthy food choices. All those healthy choices are fresh, less expensive and tasty! If you have the opportunity, take your child to a local farm to pick fresh fruit and vegetables. Or involve your child in the process of cooking or finding new recipes. Kids who take part in preparing the food are more likely to taste – and enjoy -- the fruits of their labor! For fun recipes, click here.
Summer is also a great time to try new physical activities or start a new exercise routine. Make new habits together and fun for the whole family. Plan a day when you can do some local sight-seeing. Pack a (healthy!) picnic lunch and hit a hiking or biking trail. Rent a canoe or a kayak and enjoy a sunny day together on the lake or pond. Schedule a play date at your community pool or beach. The list is nearly endless.
If you're thinking about summer programs for your child, make sure physical activity plays a part. It doesn't have to be a team sport; any kind of movement will do! Swimming, boating, hiking and other types of traditional summertime activities are all fun and non-competitive options. Specialty camps such as soccer or dance are great options for kids with an interest in a particular activity.
While you’re investigating camps, consider asking about their food policies. Do kids bring snacks and lunch from home or is food provided by the program. If this is the case, ask for a sample menu. If cookies and juice are the regular snacks, find out if the camp would consider serving healthier options. Provide suggestions and ask other parents to make the same request. Don't underestimate your power as a parent!
We have hundreds of ideas for making sure your child has a healthy summer, including:
• Be a positive role model by eating healthy foods and leading an active lifestyle.
• Stock your kitchen with healthful food and keep the unhealthful food out.
• Sit down to family meals.
• Keep portion sizes under wraps and don't bring serving bowls or platters to the table.
• Limit TV time to 2 hours a day – maximum!
• Look for emotional factors that might be causing your child to overeat.
• Limit "empty calorie" foods such as lemonade, fruit juices and iced tea wtih added sugar; chips and other types of snack foods; and candy, cakes and cookies.
The key to making summertime a healthy time is to create a new structure for the season. That way, your child will return to school in the fall feeling fit, healthy and ready to tackle the year ahead.