Disclosure :: this post is sponsored by Children’s Hospital.
How to Avoid Summer Weight Gain in Kids
Summer is the highest risk time for children to gain extra weight.
Based on several studies performed over the last ten years in various locations across the United States, the prevalence of obesity and overweight in children increases by about 33 percent over the summer months. While much of our public attention over the last decades has been directed to schools (Physical Education, lunches, vending machines), we may be missing our biggest opportunities to stem increasing overweight in our children: summertime at home.
The reasons are still incompletely understood and likely multifactorial. Generally, children are mildly more active in the summertime. However, they eat more over the summer, too. They typically keep more irregular and shorter sleep-wake cycles and more time is spent on sedentary video games over the summer. Children are more likely to have multiple caregivers over the summer, so parents may be getting incomplete information about what they’ve eaten. This, along with extra treats, may play a role.
So, what are we to do? Consider several of the suggestions below:
1. Children in summer camps or learning programs seem to gain less weight. If you can manage this for them, there may be a health bonus to the cultural enrichment from these programs.
2. Keep your summer schedule close to your school routine. Try to keep sleep-wake times within an hour of school schedule. Keep meal patterns as close to the regular pattern as possible.
3. Limit screen time to 90 minutes per day. Computer and phone apps are available for this.
4. Water – not sugared drinks – is your best rehydration drink. Consider borrowing the Latin American tradition of “agua fresca.” Place slices of lemon, lime, or orange (no sugar necessary) in a container of plain ice water to add a touch of flavor. It’s pretty too!
5. Plan your home snacks. Keep only healthy choices in the house. Plan your snacks on road trips to avoid the gas station choices.
6. Give them chores during the day. It feeds their sense of responsibility – and keeps them away from “The Screens” (advertising and inactivity risk).
7. One very special chore: while they have no homework, start teaching them to cook. These chores need to be age-appropriate, but everyone can help some way.
8. Summer is excellent for gardening. Teach ‘em radishes don’t come from groceries; they come from the ground! (Shh … It’s also a sneaky way to get them to try vegetables grown by their own hands.)
9. Opportunities for activity abound! Run through your childhood checklist. Does it include Steal the Bacon, Baby in the Air, Kick the Can, Around the World, Sock Tag, Cat & Mouse, Four Square, Frisbee, Double Dutch, Hop Scotch? Share those stories with your children. Better yet, SHOW them how to play the game!
10. Fight boredom with field trips! New Orleans has so much to offer, including the Aquarium, Bayou Sauvage, Bowling, Chalmette National Battlefield, Children’s Museum, Cool Zoo (or the actual Zoo), Fishing in Bayou St. John, Insectarium, Laser Tag and NOMA to name a few.
With awareness of this opportunity to enrich your child’s health over the summer (also, remember the sunscreen!), they can be even more ready to take on the rigors of the next school year – and the whole family can have some fun!
About John Firestone, Jr. MD
Dr. John Firestone, Jr. is a pediatrician at Children’s After Hours, a location of Children’s Pediatrics. He earned his medical degree from LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine and completed residency at Charity Hospital of New Orleans. Dr. John Firestone is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and the American Board of Allergy & Immunology. He chose to practice pediatrics because he loves helping parents through the inspiring and difficult experiences of raising children.