Summer break is almost here and I think we are all ready for slower, less hectic days filled with swimming, free time, and fun. However, according to several recent studies, summer vacation is also the time when children are most likely to gain excess weight.
Is this due to round-the-clock access to food at home and less regulated meals? Or can the weight gain be attributed to decreasedl physical activity now that kids have more access to screen time and are off from PE, recess, and sports team practices?
Researchers are not certain as to the main cause, but most hypothesize it is a combination of both along with disrupted sleep patterns that have led to this concerning trend.
Here are 5 strategies you can use in your family to help avoid the problem:
1. Routine and Consistency -
Keeping a regular schedule, with certain time windows for meals and snacks, can help prevent constant eating and keep caloric intake at healthy levels. Having a consistent, established wake time and bedtime during the summer will limit disrupted sleep, which has been associated with higher Body Mass Index (BMI.)
2. Limit Screen Time -
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to one hour per day for children 2 to 5 years of age. For kids ages 6 and older, the academy suggests parents should determine the restrictions for time spent using screen, and also monitor the types of digital media their children use. One summer compromise you might try is allowing screen time for interactive video games that require high-energy movement such as Dance, Dance Revolution (most systems) or Wipeout- Create and Crash ( Nintendo Wii and Xbox systems.)
3. Healthy Snack Options -
When at home, kids only have access to what parents purchase and bring in, so set your family up for success with healthy, convenient snack options. Cut up fruit, low-fat string cheese or yogurt, and whole grain crackers are all great snacks. A big hit at my house is frozen grapes, which my kids pop into their mouths to cool down after playing outside. For younger children, be sure to cut grapes in half before freezing.
4. Rethink Drinks -
It's easy for kids to want to grab lemonade, soda, or a sports drink when they are hot and thirsty. But these options all contain excess calories and sugar. Try having a pitcher of water or unsweetened tea available in the refrigerator for a quick cool-down. Making fruit-infused water or sun tea can be a fun family activity as well.
5. Move, Move, Move
This sounds so simple, but can be challenging, especially if you live in a hot climate. Summer is a great time to hit the pool, go bowling, or try out a trampoline place. All offer plenty of opportunity for movement without overheating. Many school sports teams offer summer training, such as cross country. Summer is also a great time for your child to try out a new sport or activity, as some evening leagues are available for things like lacrosse or soccer. If your kids are not that into sports, family walks or bike rides after dinner are a great option to get in some physical activity while connecting.