child lying on couch

6 Tips to Prevent Summer Weight Gain in Kids

They’re home, and they’re hungry.  Summer for your child might be a time of activity and playing outside and with friends, but it also can be a time of video games or TV, boredom, and snacking.  It can be easy to see why some kids gain weight, and a lot, during the summer.  Fortunately, using these tips can help prevent summer weight gain and help your child maintain a healthy weight even when school is out.

Establish structure.

School has routine and set activities, which keeps kids busy.  In addition, school has structured meal and snack times.  This routine is often lost in the summer, and it is easy for kids, who may be more bored than hungry, to graze all day on food.  This can start to add on extra pounds, especially if the snacks are filled with calories (think chips, cookies, and cakes) and lack the belly-filling fiber.  In addition, meals are often more likely to have vegetables, and if you child has been eating all day, they might not eat as well when the meal comes, causing them to miss out on these important nutrients.  Talk to your kids at a moment they are not hungry, and set a plan about eating snacks at a specified snack time and not in-between.  This way you will be able to assure your child the next meal or snack will come soon, and you can limit all-day grazing.

Clean out the cabinets. 
Girl eating watermelon

Stock your fridge with cut fruit and vegetables for snacks.

Now is the season for all the juicy, sweet-tasting fruit!  Stock your house with these kid-friendly fresh favorites while they are less expensive and taste their best.  Fruits such as strawberries, watermelon, and cantaloupe are filled with nutrients and low in calories, making them great treats.  Replace cookies, cakes, and chips with low-fat yogurt, string cheese, nuts, seeds, and trail mix, all which provide protein to keep your child satisfied.  Another great snack is light or air-popped popcorn.  A serving of popcorn is three cups, compared to that of potato chips, which is only 15 chips.  If you child decides that there “is nothing to eat”, then it is unlikely they are really hungry, and it is time for an alternative activity.

Have kid-ready meal options.

If you need meal ideas your child can make, choose foods like frozen grilled chicken strips, frozen light breakfast sandwiches such as Special K or Jimmy Dean Delights, tortillas for microwavable quesadillas, veggie or low-fat hot dogs, canned broth-based soups such as chicken noodle, tomato, or vegetable.  Edamame (steamed soybeans), microwavable single servings of rice, and fixings for lean-meat sandwiches are also great options.  In addition, freeze leftover meals, such as lasagna or Mexican casseroles, in single serving containers for your child to take out and heat for a meal.

Eat at the table. 

Have you ever found yourself snacking in front of the TV and wondering how you finished the entire bag?  Eating in front of the screen leads to mindless eating.  Insist your child eats at the table (or at least away from the screen) for meals and snacks.  Additionally, make sure snacks are served in bowls or on a napkin instead of eating out of the bag or box.  Even if your child get seconds, it is much easier to realize how much is being eaten.

Get them outside! 
water fight

Encourage your kids to be active and enjoy the outdoors.

Get your kids involved in things they enjoy, and help them regenerate their creativity.  They can go for a walk, take a bike ride, do a daily nature treasure hunt, build an obstacle course, pitch a tent, do nature art, play on a playground, play catch, do chalk art, plant a flower or vegetable of their choice, have a water fight, or use your camera.  Send older kids on errands or to the library to find an interesting book.  Another surefire way to get your kids outside is to get active with them.  Buy an inexpensive badminton set for the yard, play catch, go on a walk or bike ride, or ask your child for their ideas.  This is time you can enjoy as a family and a way to de-stress from your day.

Kids home alone? 

Keep them busy even when you aren’t there by having them do daily chores, work on art, science, or other special projects that interest them; meet targets for reading or other studying, or participate in area sports or camps.

By creating a healthy food environment and helping your child enjoy being active every day, you will help keep your child healthy and ready to take on whatever the next school year brings.

 

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