Recently, I was asked by my school district to share some tips with families, to help them have a healthy Summer. I could talk about this topic ALL DAY! But, I’ve narrowed it down to a few important components to educate parents on how their families can have the healthiest Summer yet!
Have a daily/weekly routine:
Having a routine in your house will not only make the transition back into the school year easier but it will make your kids happier and more productive. They are used to following a schedule at school and like to know what to expect. Keep them busy and involved with activities, sports and playdates, and let them know the daily and weekly schedule. The local library, parks and rec, and Boys and Girls Club have a lot of really fun activities planned this Summer!
Incorporate physical activity into your family’s quality time.
Getting regular exercise is good for kids, both mentally and physically. And what they love the most is playing with you! Ask them what they learned in physical education class during the school year, what their favorite games and activities are, and have them teach you. You don’t need a lot of equipment to work up a sweat! Take them to the local parks, play tag, run around the yard, etc. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends kids get 60 or more minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day, and adults 150 minutes or more each week. Activities can include biking, hiking, brisk walking, jogging or swimming. Set up playdates with other families and/or kids, that focus around being physically active. And remember, any type of physical activity is better than nothing!
Limit screen time:
The recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is no more than 1-2 hours a day or quality/educational content. Studies have shown that excessive screen time can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders and obesity. The AAP recommends parents establish a “screen-free zone” at home, for example in bedrooms. Removing TV’s and computers from bedrooms, and putting them in a shared space and collecting any devices outside of the 1-2 hour window, and storing somewhere, can all help keep the temptation at bay.
Get enough sleep:
Lack of sleep can cause a wide variety of chronic diseases, and with school not in session, it might be tempting to let kids stay up past their bedtime. School-aged children should get at least 10 hours of sleep a night, according to the CDC. Going to bed and rising at similar times as during the school year will only make it easier once school is back in session, and will ensure your child is getting enough sleep. Keeping all devices out of bedrooms and avoiding large meals before bed also contributes to a more restful night’s sleep.
With the warmer temperatures come an even greater need to stay hydrated. It can be easy to reach for soda, juice, etc when thirsty, but avoiding these empty calories can help with weight management. Just because a fruit juice says “100% pure” or “no sugar added”, doesn’t mean there isn’t sugar in it. For example, 12 ounces of Apple Juice contains 165 calories and 39 grams of sugar (9.8 teaspoons) and very little nutritional value. Stick to water, which you can flavor with cut up fruit or a splash of 100% juice, flavored sparkling water, low-fat milk, and keep your fridge stocked with these healthier choices.
Plan your meals ahead of time:
It can be hard to find nutritious meals for your family with a busy Summer schedule. Planning your meals ahead of time can not only help your budget but it can help keep your family healthier. Unhealthy foods are low in nutrition and high in calories, fat and sodium. This includes not only fast food, but also highly processed, ready-made food options from the grocery store. Spend time over the weekend creating a meal plan with your family, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Cut up fruits and veggies in advance, hard boil eggs, use the crock pot to make large batches for leftovers, etc. When you know you’re going to be away from home, pack a small cooler filled with healthy snacks (fruits, veggies, rice cakes, string cheese, etc) and healthy beverages. That way, you have something healthy to reach for instead of hitting up the drive through. When grocery shopping, avoid boxed food items and stick to fresh fruits/veggies and whole grains. Check ingredients on the food label and if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, avoid that item.
If you are going to stop at the drive-thru, follow these fast-foods tips from the American Heart Association:
- Skip the sides. Eating a burger or sandwich by itself is often plenty filling, plus you’ll save money by skipping the “value” meal.
- Choose fruit and vegetables over fries. Many fast food restaurants offer fruit cups or side salad as a healthy alternative to French fries.
- If you must have fries, split the size. Your kids love fries, so what do you do? Try splitting an order between the two of you. If you have more than one child, find a size you can split among several people. That way no one gets all the fat, sodium and calories of the oversized serving. Plus, you might save a little cash.
- Buy a baked potato instead of a burger. Some restaurants offer potatoes plain or with all the fixings. Of course, the more toppings like sour cream, cheese, bacon and butter that are added, the less healthy it becomes. Find a compromise with your kids by asking them to choose just one topping.
- Go for the grilled. Poultry without skin is much leaner than the meats most fast-food companies use in their burgers, and it may be less processed. The chicken nuggets that are common in kids’ meals often have just as much fat and sodium as an adult-size burger. Choose a grilled skinless chicken sandwich, split it between your kids (or save half for later). You’ll also save money!
- Ask for a wheat bun. Some places offer a wheat alternative. It never hurts to ask.
- Skip the “kids meal.” Just get the toy. Just because a meal is marketed toward children doesn’t mean they have to eat it. Often, the toys can be purchased separately.
- Pass on the “value-size.” When you supersize, the size of your fries and drink isn’t the only thing that gets bigger.
- Drink water, 100 percent juice or low-fat milk. No one ever said that every fast food meal must be eaten with soda. Sodas are loaded with sugars, which have calories your kids don’t need. Nearly all fast food restaurants offer alternatives — including water!
Keep it simple and FUN and don’t overthink it! Be a healthy role model and lead by example. By limiting your own screen time, being more physically active, keeping a house full of healthy foods and eating them, your kids are going to follow your healthy behavior. Monkey see, monkey do!
HELPFUL RESOURCES FOR PARENTS, KIDS, AND TEENS: