Bee Healthy: Helping kids eat well and be active during summer break

May 20, 2014 

To parents, summer might seem like a blip of time, but to kids, the days may seem like they stretch forever. It’s great to sleep in late and be homework-free, but sometimes the lack of daily routine can lead to poor food choices and lack of exercise.

Break up those sedentary days (and cries of boredom) with active chores like walking the dog, weeding, mowing the lawn, sweeping or vacuuming. Monitor the amount of sitting time each day by setting time limits on computer, video games, movies and TV. Consider getting kids involved in a sports-centered day camp, go swimming, or coordinate evening bike rides or walks together. Every day should include 60 minutes or more of physical activity to keep the heart and muscles strong.

Parents and caregivers are in charge of what fills the cupboards. Steer clear of buying high-fat, high-sugar items like ice cream, candy bars, sweetened drinks and chips. These types of foods can be too tempting for everyone in the house, especially in the summer when “boredom eating” can become a problem. Make clear boundaries for meal and snack times to avoid mindless grazing through the day.

As a family, develop a shopping list of healthy foods and let the kids help find items around the store. Grocery shopping can be time used to show how to pick an apple, spy the freshest-looking head of lettuce, or read food labels. Take it a step further by planning and preparing meals together. Depending on ability, have the kids make a meal or prepare an easy side dish like a salad. Even simply having kids set the table helps to get them involved.

Take a weekend field trip to the local farmers market to see, touch and taste all the varied fruits and vegetables grown in the Valley. A fun vacation project could be growing your own easy-to-care-for food, like an herb garden or tomatoes.

Communicate food and exercise goals to caregivers who may be helping with your children. A consistent health message reinforces the value of eating well and being active. Good habits will become great habits as kids grow more independent with their food and exercise choices. At summer’s end, kids will be ready to tackle a new school year.

Noonan is a diabetes educator at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation.

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