It’s counterintuitive that kids would gain more weight during the summer than during the school year, but that’s exactly what the research shows.
There are two competing scenarios about kids and summer. In the first scenario, children are outside climbing trees, swimming, riding bikes and basically running around. They eat three square meals a day and maybe an afternoon snack. In the second scenario, kids are sitting around watching television, playing computer games and snacking on chips. The truth is probably somewhere between these two extremes. Kids aren’t running around in the summer as much as we think they are, and they’re snacking on junk more than we like to admit. Summer weight gain, it’s kind of like the Freshmen 10. (In my case, calling it the Freshmen 10 is kind.)
In one study that followed more than 18,000 children researchers concluded: From the fall of kindergarten to the spring of second grade, the prevalence of obesity increased from 8.9% to 11.5%, and the prevalence of overweight increased from 23.3% to 28.7%. All of the increase in prevalence occurred during the two summer vacations; no increase occurred during any of the three school years.
Personally, I have a lot of fond memories of summer and summer food. I’m not talking about fresh salads and juicy peaches either. Think more ice cream sandwiches. And so, I’m not going to argue that the solution to summer weight gain is eliminating yummy stuff from your children’s diets. No. I’m going to argue something different.
Here’s the Shocker: It doesn’t matter WHAT your kids eat.
I wrote a blog post back in 2009 that made the argument that it doesn’t matter what your kids eat. What matters is how often they eat it. Whatever it is. Read the post here.
There is room in the diet for everything. And I mean everything. I know there are people who will argue with me. Many people advocate avoiding artificial dyes, for instance. And if that works for your family, fine. But really, it’s not what you eat that matters. It’s how often you eat it. (I know, I said that already, but it bears repeating.)
What matters is whether your kids eat foods in proportion to their healthful benefits. What kinds of foods do your kids eat most often?
The flip side is, how often do they eat all those treats?
The benefit of teaching kids the principle of proportion is that you don’t demonize their favorite foods. In response, kids don’t have to be defensive, defiant or devious.
I provide a detailed outline about how to implement proportion in my post It Doesn’t Matter WHAT Your Kids Eat! You might also want to read It Doesn’t Matter WHEN Your Kids Eat their Crap. The upshot is this: give your children the guidelines they need to eat the “right” about of sweets and treats. Then, let them decide what and when.
And as for the summer, and keeping the summer weight off, consider structuring time a little like school.
- Breakfast, then activity, then lunch.
- Activity, then snack, then activity.
- Forget the grazing.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~