Gaining Weight Part of Summer For Many KidsThose lazy days of summer we wish for all year may be setting the stage for your child to gain weight. That was the finding of research published in the American Journal of Public Health, which showed that kids often put on added pounds during the summer. The study attributes the weight gains to kids’ lack of physical activity and too much eating between meals.
Here are 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. Think hard about how much of the day your kids are spending indoors, in front of a screen in the air conditioning, rather than playing outside.
One thing that can help is to give kids a regular routine when school is out. Make sure summer days have some structure; for example, getting up at the same time each day and eating meals at set times. Remind kids to eat breakfast. Especially if they are home alone, discourage kids from continuous snacking by leaving easy-to-prepare meals for lunch and limiting “snack food” choices.
What should you leave for kids’ lunch when they’re home alone? Here are some suggestions.
--Whole wheat bread and sandwich fixings, including pre-cut veggies.
--Leftovers from last night’s supper, including salad.
--Cold pasta, potato or tuna salads, made with lots of veggies.
--Fresh, cut-up vegetables with dip.
--Corn-on-the-cob, husked and ready to go in the microwave.
--Fruit salad made with summer fruit in season.
--Yogurt, granola and fruit for yogurt parfaits; yogurt and fruit for smoothies.
--Make a “burrito kit:” tortillas, refried beans, salsa, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. The leftover tortillas can be used to make roll-ups with hummus and veggies or peanut butter and bananas.
--Hard-boiled eggs, string cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese--cold foods are more appealing on a hot day and don’t require cooking. These foods all have some protein, which will help kids feel full longer and hopefully decrease snacking later.
To help children 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.
Source: Betsy Kelley, Outreach Specialist with UW-Extension’s Family Living Programs