Prevent Summer Weight Gain in Kids
Betsy Kelley, outreach specialist with Cooperative Extension’s Family Living Programs,[ has some suggestions for parents who are concerned about maintaining their children’s healthy weight when school is out.
Encourage your kids to get outside and be active, and watch what foods are available at home. Weight gain in children and adults is a matter of calories in vs. calories out.
Balance – or lack of balance – is often related to portion size. Even though small containers of yogurt or individual serving packages of applesauce or pretzels may cost more, they can help with portion control. Parents can make up small baggies or containers of snack foods and limit how many are available. Preventing kids from eating directly from a large bag or box of anything – even healthier snack foods – is another way to help keep portions in control.
Drinks provide more calories than most people realize. Keep sugary, sweetened juice, soda and sports drinks out of the house. Research at the University of California-Berkeley Center for Weight and Health confirms that plain water will keep most kids hydrated, even in summer. Leave some filled, reusable bottles of water in the fridge.
Keep fresh fruit and veggies cut up in the refrigerator in see-through containers or plastic bags. Keep them visible-don’t let them get lost in the lower bins.
What about those summer staples—popsicles, ice cream and frozen treats? Nobody says parents have to take away all the fun summer foods. Just realize that they have sugar and many frozen treats have a lot more calories than you expect. Let kids choose one special treat rather than a boxful. Or encourage them to make their own. Frozen fruit smoothies with 100 percent juice, frozen fruit and low-fat ice cream parfaits, or homemade frozen juice treats with a spoon stuck in a paper cup are tasty, easy-to-make and healthier. .
To help kids choose the things you want them to eat, quietly buy less of the things you don’t want them to eat. Skip the frozen pizza, frozen meals and prepared foods. Buy less “food in a box,” like macaroni and cheese, rice mixes, and pasta meals. Replace big bags of chips and cookies with smaller packages of lower fat, lower salt snacks. Institute a policy of “when it’s gone, it’s gone,” so kids don’t eat all the snack food the day after you shop--or if they do, they understand the consequences.
Summer doesn’t have to mean weight gain--it can be a time for kids to enjoy fresh foods and make some healthy choices, when parents make those choices available.