Summer is upon us, Ladies! Whether you are dreading it, willing it to get here more quickly, or scrambling to line up child care, one thing is for sure – children, the nation over, will soon find themselves with more unstructured time on their hands. I was a latchkey kid growing up. I was given snacks, food, chores, and left to my own devices for much of the summer. To be clear, I LOVED summer! Unlimited junk food + TV time + roaming the neighborhood with the other latchkey kids = awesomeness (duh!). One aspect of my summers that was not awesome, however, was the impact they had on my health.
As adults, with too much time on our hands and out of our routine, we are prone to mindless eating. Pair that with getting sucked into the rabbit hole that is modern day entertainment (AKA screen time) and we can find ourselves set up for unhealthy behaviors very quickly. And our kids are no exception. As a Certified Family Health Coach, I have compiled a Summer Survival Guide to help you and your family have a fit and healthy summer no matter how your family summers.
“You can’t exercise away a bad diet” – Mark Hyman, MD
1. Smart Snacking
Health begins from the inside out, folks. The number one most important thing you can do to improve yours and your kids’ health is to commit to eating real food. Let’s quickly talk about what real food is, shall we? In general, you want to strive to eat things with as little ingredients as possible, only ingredients you can pronounce, and whenever possible skip items that come in cans, bags, or boxes. Make eating real food easier by keeping real food on hand and readily available to be munched. Check out some of these examples:
Tip: I keep a container on hand in the car, my purse, and in the house for quick and easy snacking.
Pre-cut fruit and pre-made yogurt dipping sauce. Fruit is nature’s perfect to-go snack, and you can make it go a long way by adding some protein to it. I suggest Greek yogurt (double in protein than plain yogurt) with a little honey (local if you want to try to reap anti-allergy benefits), or no sugar added 100% juice to cut down on the tartness.
Tip: Save yourself some money and cut the fruit yourself. Buying the whole fruit and cutting it yourself will also ensure you get ripe (and sweeter) fruit.
Tip: To make this snack heartier you can add a whole wheat tortilla and make a wrap out of it.
100% Whole Wheat Crackers with sliced cheese, hummus, or peanut butter.
100% Fruit Juice (or close to it with no sugar added) Popsicles (I’m not a total health Nazi)
2. Staying Active
It’s H-O-T, amirite? Note: I am writing this at the end of April, and I am nine months pregnant so if I could peel my skin off at this point I totally would. However, something tells me (pregnant or not) that we are in for a hot summer. So for the sake of this post, I am going to give you some indoor (or cooling) activities you can facilitate for your kids this summer.
Consider a swim class. I can’t stress enough the importance of water safety (especially in Florida!), but swimming is also a great way to stay fit (and cool!). If you have younger ones a survival class might be right for you, and for older ones check out a swimming team for the summer.
Tip: The YMCA offers membership scholarships based on income.
Combine screen time with fitness! Get activity-based video games such as Wii, or introduce your younger kids to one of our favorites, Cosmic Kids Yoga which is entirely FREE AND fantastic.
Simon Says fitness style with push-ups, jumping jacks, and dancing it out (Grey’s Anatomy Style, of course), for example.
Water yard games. Fun sprinklers, water balloons, water guns (depending on your moral stance) are fun ways to get kids outdoors and to move. Plus you’ll water your grass, so I call that winning.
3. H2O to Go, Go
It’s tempting to grab for juice, sodas or other sugary concoctions when it’s hot out but science tells us these sugar drinks don’t do much for hydration. When at all possible try to stick to water. You can dress it up by adding cucumber slices, citrus slices (like oranges or lemons), watermelon, or berries. Or freeze 100% no sugar added fruit juice into ice cube trays and add to a glass of water, which will flavor the water without adding tons of sugar.
Tip: I recommend my clients try adding ice cubes (plain or juice) to sippy cups of water for younger kiddos. It creates a rattle, if you will, as well as gets them used to drinking water.
4. Reasonable Rest
The research linking sleep habits and childhood obesity continue to mount. Summer is often a free for all as far as sleep is concerned, especially for older kids. Try to come up with a summertime schedule that allows for adequate sleep and stick to it.
5. Travel Well
Who doesn’t love vacation food?! As a self-proclaimed foodie, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the things I look forward to most on vacation. Alas, there is nothing worse than returning to reality (and having to unpack!), then returning to reality and feeling like crap. Commit to eating 1-2 healthy, and reasonable meals per day when traveling, Snack smart, and try to plan some active excursions while on your trip. For example, give that climbing wall on the cruise a try! Or visit a group fitness class or yoga class if traveling all inclusive somewhere. Rent some bikes or take a hike. If nothing more, enjoy a walk exploring where you are after you enjoy a decadent meal.
Most importantly, carve out some extra time to spend together as a family – feed your soul and enjoy life at a slower speed for a few months.