The final bell has rung. The last bus has moved into its summer parking lot.
And with one last blow of the backpack, your kids have become ubiquitous. They will be within earshot all summer: explore, play, vacation, read and create.
And, of course, eat.
For the next two or three months, your kids will turn to you for every breakfast, lunch, and dinner, not to mention the slew of snacks that will complement their downtime.
While it’s all too easy to get into the habit of handing out packaged goods or quick sweets, it’s not an ideal approach for your child’s health.
By following a few simple suggestions, you can keep your family’s nutrition on track all summer long.
Here are some simple steps for a summer diet:
Build a routine
For some children, long summer days can lead to boredom if there is no plan or structure. One of the worst things you can do is drop your kids in front of the TV with a bag of crisps.
But boredom itself can also lead to eating, even if your child is not hungry. Some call it “pasture”. No matter what you call it, don’t let it get out of hand.
Establish a routine for meals and snacks. Keep the routine consistent so your kids know what to expect. This way, they will be less worried when they eat next.
Make healthy snacks
Snacks are not the same as junk food. Eating one to two healthy, planned snacks each day should be part of a healthy diet in your household. Snacks should incorporate foods from the five major food groups.
But remember, just because something is healthy doesn’t mean we can eat as much as we want. Try to provide special treats once or twice a week, and in small amounts. Sugar and extra calories should be controlled.
Be water efficient
The hotter summer temperatures can make your kids thirsty. Whenever possible, choose water to hydrate yourself. If you can help your kids avoid the excess sugar from the usual suspects (soda, juice, teas, and sports drinks), they’ll be better off.
For added flavor, try adding slices of lemon, strawberry, cucumber, or other fruits and vegetables to a pitcher of cold water.
Head to bed
It’s easy to stay awake late in the summer, but it can lead to late night snacks. Changing your sleep schedule and not sticking to a routine can affect your appetite and make it difficult to stick to healthy choices.
Avoid sleeping all morning. If you skip breakfast, it is more difficult to control your hunger in the afternoon and evening.
Older children should get at least nine hours of sleep a night, while younger children need a lot more than that.
Control your portions
Children and their parents sometimes eat more in the summer because they are more active. The truth is, many children and adults don’t get enough extra activity to warrant a significant increase in calories.
Focus on filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, then limit any extras you add to them, like butter, salt, and dressing. Control your portions not only with meals, but also with snacks.