Ah, the long summer holidays! Do we heave a sigh of relief or groan at the thought of kids being home from school for so long? However we feel, many of us will have some extra time at home with our little ones. This month I’m looking at tips to help families avoid some of the less healthy holiday habits it can be easy to slip into. The blog is designed more for pre-school and older children who are getting some extra time off during the summer, but many ideas also apply to younger siblings and all those taking holidays during January.
A healthy start
It’s easy to let the morning routine slide, but this shouldn’t include breakfast. Starting the day with a nutritious meal gives kids a boost of carbs for energy, and many breakfast cereals are fortified with an extra dose of vitamins and minerals. Compare brands to find those that are lower in sugar, at least for most of the holiday period. The higher-sugar types (you know them – they’re the ones your kids ask for every time you hit the cereal aisle) can work as a ‘treat’ afternoon snack, or be reserved just for certain special times such as when away for a few days.
Set off for outings with frozen water bottles and healthy (or at least not super-unhealthy) snacks from home. Even if you still buy a small treat when you’re out, you’ll save a fortune and help your little ones eat better. Limiting snack packaging and drink containers will help save the planet too.
Move every body
Encourage daily activity, preferably several sessions, whether it’s walking the dog with mum or dad, a trip to the playground, or a swim session at the local pool. A holiday period is the perfect time to make exercise a family activity, so everyone gains the benefits and parents show a great example to little ones. Stuck in the house? Turn on music rather than the TV and groove with your kiddies. Christmas carols would be perfect!
Stock your fridge
If you’re spending time at home, people will be looking for snacks. Keeping chopped fruit and veg ready and in clear sight when you open the fridge door will help stop people from reaching for less healthy options. Of course, they can be bought ready-chopped, but it’s much cheaper to cut up your own. You could take some of the fruit chunks and freeze them (on skewers for older kids) for a cold treat on a hot day. Making ice blocks is a fun activity too, from a mix of fruit purees, yogurts, and juices or smoothies. Don’t worry if you don’t have the proper equipment, just use small cups with a teaspoon set in them.
While stocking the fridge, put in some water complete with flavourings. Try berries, cucumber, lemon, mint, melon or any combination you think your children will enjoy. Store up plastic water bottles (washed or put in the dishwasher) so kids can grab their own one.
If you’re only going to a few parties or special meals, just go ahead and enjoy all the food. However, if it’s a never-ending stream of socialising, try to give your kids a light meal or substantial snack before going out. This will keep your little ones fuelled and reduce their appetite for less healthy foods. You could also earn Brownie points with the host by bringing along a fairly healthy dish – then you’ll also know there’s something nutritious your children will enjoy.
Research suggests that children who spend more time looking at screens tend to be less active. Some of us will now be firmly in holiday mode, and it’s a lovely chance for our kids to relax out of their usual schedule. However, some of them will happily watch a screen all day if we don’t set some limits. You’ll know if your little ones have this tendency (two out of my three certainly do)! One friend of mine finds a good way to limit screen time is with a list of other activities her children need to do before or after any screen session. Her suggestions include moving their body (maybe dancing or playing outside) and a creative activity (drawing, lego or building blocks perhaps). To that, I might add a cup of water – making sure our kids stay hydrated through the summer days.
Eat, drink and be merry
We all look forward to holidays, but there’s no denying too much family time can test our patience. Keeping our kids well hydrated and active, plus regular meals and snacks, are key to an even mood – so important in maintaining the family holiday cheer. So eat, drink, play, and have a very enjoyable January!
©Fiona Hinton 2021
MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: Please note that this blog is for general information only, and should not be taken as a substitute for qualified medical advice. Please discuss medical issues with your child’s doctor before taking any action.
About Fiona: Fiona Hinton is a dietitian, but describes herself as a nutrition translator, taking the science of nutrition and translating it into foods we love to eat, to nourish both body and soul. She has over 20 years of experience as a dietitian, working in a wide range of areas from hospital wards to running her own private practice. Fiona has a special interest in children’s nutrition. As a mum of three school-age boys, she has first-hand experience of the issues associated with feeding young children, such as weaning and fussiness. Fiona specialises in real-life strategies and practical suggestions to convert nutrition advice into food kids will eat. Fiona has collaborated on several books, including one with best-selling children’s food writer Annabel Karmel, as well as training childcare staff in children’s nutrition.