University of Findlay Health Expert: Healthy Living During Summer Break
Summer break is a time for kids to relax, reset, and be a kid. However, healthy food choices, sleeping habits, and exercise should not fall by the wayside. University of Findlay assistant professor of teaching in the physician assistant program, Amy Phillips, DMSc. provides advice to kids and parents during the summer months.
When it comes to healthy food habits and eating, Phillips encourages kids to eat the following daily:
- 3-5 servings of vegetables
- 2-4 servings of fruit
- 6-11 servings of bread, cereal, or pasta
- 2-3 servings of lean protein
- 2-3 servings of low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese
When kids are home for the summer, it is easy to gravitate toward sugary snacks and drinks that provide little nutritional value. In addition, processed foods like hot dogs, pickles, and potato chips are convenient but contain large amounts of sodium, so it is important to read labels. Phillips recommends making healthy snacks readily accessible. “Prepping healthy food is an excellent way to ensure you have snacks available for your kids,” she said. Phillips recommends cutting washed fresh fruits and vegetables and storing them in the fridge for easy grab-and-go access throughout the week.
Phillips also recommends making the most out of the nice summer months, encouraging grilling when possible. “If we can utilize the grill in the summertime, that is going to be a better way to cook without the need for additional fat,” she said.
Another struggle for parents is sleeping habits, as kids view summer break as a time to stay up late playing games and watching TV. “In the summer we know there is a bit of flexibility with wake and sleep times, but it is recommended to keep kids on a good sleep routine,” said Phillips. “Sleep is necessary for healthy growth and development, and poor sleep is associated with daytime behavioral issues and increased parental stress.” Phillips recommends keeping a set bedtime for kids, limiting stimuli before bed, encouraging a dark and quiet bedroom, and reading before bed. “Reading with your kids is a great way to help them wind down and get ready for bed,” said Phillips.
While the warm summer months can make snacking and bedtime more difficult, it is also more inviting to kids looking to go outside and play. “Activities such as cycling, swimming, basketball, running, and soccer can be beneficial to a child’s health,” Phillips said. “It increases cardiovascular endurance, improves large muscle strength and coordination, increases flexibility, maintains proper weight, and helps to reduce stress.” Kids 6-17 years old are encouraged to get 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily.
Before sending your kids out to play, Phillips encourages parents to keep safety in mind. She suggests talking to kids about park safety, street safety, pool safety, biking safety, and protecting the kids with proper hydration and sunscreen. “We want kids to have fun during their summer break, but ensure they are doing so in a safe and protected manner,” Phillips said.