Healthy Summer Eating Tips for Kids
5 tips for co-parents to help their kids eat healthy this summer.
Your child's routine likely changes over the summer, and this may include a disruption to regular meal habits. According to an article in The New York Times, at least half a dozen studies found that children gain weight at a faster rate during the summer months than during the school year.
It's important for co-parents to foster healthy summer eating habits in both homes
As Clinical Dietician with the Get Up & Go program at Children's Health, Otoniel Santiago, puts it, "During summer, families are spending more time outdoors, gathering with friends and family, attending backyard barbeques and events for their children, as well as traveling. It can be a stressful time to make healthy choices because options may be limited, and motivation is low."
Consistency is difficult for any type of family unit to maintain during the summer months, but it can be especially challenging for co-parents. To help with this, you and your co-parent can try these 5 healthy summer eating tips for kids:
1. Set a daily meal routine
While children are in school, breakfast, lunch, and even dinner are typically around the same time every day. Though the daily times of those meals may change during the summer due to kids staying up later or sleeping in, keeping those times as regular as possible is key.
If your kids eat between meals, set a designated snack time as well. This will help their bodies adjust to receiving food at regular intervals, which cuts down on mindless eating throughout the day. If possible, you and your co-parent should work out meal and snack times together, creating consistent daily meal routines in both households.
2. Keep it simple & fresh
With schedules fluctuating more during the summer months as families juggle camps, trips, and vacations, keeping meals simple can be beneficial for both you and your kids. This cuts down on the likelihood that you will resort to fast food and other unhealthy choices due to the convenience factor.
You should also try to provide fresh foods to your children whenever you can. Fresh fruits and vegetables make for great breakfasts and snacks for your kids. You can also incorporate them into lunch and dinner with things like pasta, sandwiches, salads, and more.
3. Avoid sugary drinks
Consuming sugary drinks increases the risk of excess weight gain, tooth decay, and preventable diseases such as obesity in children. If you and your co-parent agree to let your child have sugary drinks, consumption should still be limited.
Additionally, when children drink sugary beverages in excess, they often become dehydrated more easily. Encouraging your child to drink water throughout the day is key to a healthy diet. Learn more about how much water children need and drinks to avoid here.
4. Get kids involved in the kitchen
A great way to help your kids get excited about healthy eating is to let them cook with you. Allowing children to participate in the kitchen can help them get a better understanding of what they're putting into their bodies and make them feel like they're actively involved in their own health and diet.
You and your co-parent can use this time in the kitchen to teach your kids simple lessons, such as which nutrients certain foods provide, and which healthy ingredients create the flavors they love.
5. Only supply healthy choices
Children must learn to make good choices and sometimes junk foods will be in the mix. However, when kids are younger, it's important to provide them with options that are healthy for them, even if that means buying baked chips instead of regular, or frozen yogurt instead of ice cream.
As children grow, they will be presented with unhealthy options, but they are more likely to choose wisely if their bodies are accustomed to healthy eating. You and your co-parent should strive to present a united front when it comes to a healthy diet. If one parent only provides chips and cookies and the other parent only supplies fruits and veggies, this will not only confuse the child, but it could also create conflict between homes. Again, consistency here is key.
These 5 simple tips can make a big difference
Creating healthy eating habits can help your child start out on the right foot this summer. You and your co-parent just need to give your kids the tools they need to succeed. For more information about fostering a healthy lifestyle for your kids, check out our article on Talking to Children About Weight.