Summer vacation is the perfect time to relax, have fun, and go on some adventures. However, according to a recent article by Peter Orszag, all that rest during the summer has some detrimental effects. Several studies show that students’ academic skills go down the toilet during the summer, leaving kids behind by at least a month once the school year starts.
The article by Orszag also points to the decline in kids’ health during the summer. Students gain weight two to three times faster during the summer. While it’s fine to let yourself go a bit during the vacation, it’s also important to remember how prevalent obesity is among children (and adults). Stay healthy all year round with these healthy-eating tips.
1. Eat breakfast
Many people either don’t have time for breakfast or see it as an optional meal, but breakfast is important to support healthy eating habits. Breakfast gives kids the physical and mental fuel they need to start the day. Studies show that kids who skip breakfast are more likely to crave high-calorie, low-nutrition snacks in the middle of the day.
Breakfast doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge meal, either. A piece of toast, an egg, a banana, and a glass of milk are sufficient. The point is to keep your kids’ blood sugar levels from dropping too low, which causes those cravings for unhealthy junk foods.
2. Incorporate the macronutrients
There are three basic macronutrients—protein, fat, and carbohydrates—that you and your kids need to function properly. The important thing to keep in mind here is balance. Foods high in carbohydrates but low in fat, for instance, will cause a sharp spike in blood sugar, followed by a significant crash.
Fat and protein can quell hunger pangs and help hormonal functions. Try to include a protein, unsaturated fat, and whole-grain carbohydrate in every meal.
3. Limit junk foods and processed snacks
Snacks are an essential and necessary part of any diet. They help fight off the hunger pangs and fill the stomach between meals. Unfortunately, most kids reach for potato chips, chocolate bars, and other unhealthy snacks. While it’s okay to indulge every once in a while, try more nutritious meals, such as fresh fruit, raw veggies, and dip, nuts and seeds, or granola bars. Aim for whole foods instead of highly-processed junk.
4. Break the mold with healthy alternatives
Kids and teens aren’t especially adventurous when it comes to food. They have their staple foods—usually in the realm of pizzas and burgers—and won’t often try new things.
To accommodate their established tastes while still injecting some nutrition, make subtle alterations to your kids’ foods. Replace sandwich bread with whole wheat bread or a pita. Substitute ketchup and mustard with salsa or vinaigrette. Even adding a plate of fresh fruit and veggies is enough to encourage healthy eating.
While the Orszag article does point to some interesting findings, the fact is that summer is a necessary part of any child’s development. Having fun and staying healthy aren’t mutually exclusive.