Be the leader
As a parent, one of the most helpful things you can do to keep kids healthy over the summer is lead them in that direction. There are smart ways to encourage your kids, and terrible ones—make sure you know the parenting advice you should ignore. Shelly Summar, MSEd, RD, LD, program manager of Weighing In at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, says, “Kids pay attention to their parents’ behavior and use it as a guide. Parents should role model healthy eating and ensure healthy options are readily available.” How can you do that? Be prepared and keep healthy foods at hand. Make small changes in your own diet that can impact your child’s habits, like drinking more water or eating an extra serving of fruit or vegetables every day. Summar suggests placing healthy food options in plain sight wherever possible, like fresh fruit on the counter or table. “Healthy options should be the first thing you see when you’re hungry,” says Summar.
Follow the 1-2-3-4-5 rule
Summar also suggests focusing on five important behaviors for a healthy lifestyle for kids, as outlined in a Healthy Lifestyle Initiatives program called 12345 Fit-Tastic. According to the 1-2-3-4-5 rule, kids should have 1 hour of physical activity, 2 hours of screen time, 3 servings of low or non-fat milk or yogurt, 4 servings of water, and 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Although this recipe is perfect for kids to stick to all year, parents can really focus on it over the summer when there’s more time to instill this healthy approach. Summar advises thinking outside the box for physical activities that don’t cost a lot of money. Museums and arts and crafts programs get kids moving and out of the house, or try free activities at local playgrounds like canoeing, swimming, or other fun outdoor water activities to stay active and cool in the summer. As for screen time, keep phones, tablets, computers, and TVs out of bedrooms and away from the meal table for less distraction and temptation. To help you and the kids stick to the 3-4-5 diet rules, Summar says, it’s all about making food fun. Use Greek yogurt for vegetable or fruit dip, add frozen fruit ice cubes to water, and make fun, colorful fruit kabobs for a refreshing, tasty treat. Do you want some more fun ways to add healthy options to the menu? A Unicorn Poop Vegetable Dip will surely get your kids excited to eat some veggies!