With the summer holidays upon us, many of us find ourselves with a different daily routine, and even with our best intentions our healthy eating regime can soon start to slip. And then there's the challenge of keeping children entertained. Many will happily spend inordinate amounts of time playing computer games or watching TV, but if you can get them outside being a bit more active, that could be to your benefit too – think of the extra calorie burning potential!
Not only does too much screen time in children contribute to a sedentary lifestyle, Public Health England also believe it can lead to low self-esteem and lower self-reported happiness.
In America, teenagers often spend more than 11 hours using various forms of media, with the average 8 year old also spending huge amounts of time on media sources – up to 8 hours a day! In the UK, over 70% of young people do not achieve the recommended 1 hour of exercise each day. It's worth pointing out this doesn't have to be a solid 1 hour, it can be broken down throughout the day, but the aim is that physical activity elevates their heart rate and gets them breathing harder.
So here are some ideas to get you and your family active this summer. Planning ahead helps to keep their boredom at bay (and your stress levels down!) Getting active doesn't have to be expensive – have a look at the ideas below.
- Many local councils offer free swimming sessions for children – contact your local swimming baths for more details.
- Tennis For Free is a community sports charity that offers free tennis coaching for all the family, click here for more details.
- Create your own games; get the kids involved to think of new games to play in the garden or the local park, for example a Treasure Hunt. Walking bingo is also a good one for all ages; use a rainy day to plan and make your bingo cards with different things to look out for. Then when the sun comes out go for a walk, and tick off each item until someone has a full house.
- Take a leaf out of many of one of our Forum users book and have a kitchen disco, put on your favourite music and dance around to your heart's content :)
- Go on a family bike ride
- Borrow a dog (it works wonders for getting the kids out!) – lots of friends/family will be looking for dog sitters while they are on holiday, borrow theirs and encourage the kids to go on plenty of walks and play in the garden.
- Water fights! With the good weather, what better way to cool off than a water fight in the garden or park. You'll burn off plenty of calories running to get away!
- Go to the park – lots of parks these days have 'trim trails' or obstacle courses. Take a stopwatch and see who can get the fastest time (adults too!).
Other activities for the family
- The NHS choices website is a great resource to search for lots of different activities in your area.
- Try something new as a family, if you're not sure what, complete this quick NHS quiz to give you some ideas.
- Get planting fruit and vegetables; getting the kids involved in growing their own often makes them more willing to try the end product. Salad leaves such as lettuce and rocket are great to grow during the summer months and they don't require much room. There are also more community gardens popping up through the UK, you get your own plot or can help others our and get to keep all of the produce you grow.
- Get cooking – again children are often more willing to try new things if they have had a hand in making them. The Nutracheck recipe section has some great healthy recipes to choose from. Tip: to get children to try new fruit and vegetables it's all about exposure, if they seem hesitant to try new foods ask them to kiss it. It might sound a little odd, but this helps them to get used to new textures and smells.
Summer holidays for the kids don't have to be spent sitting in front of the TV. It may take a bit of persuasion to drag them away but your efforts will be rewarded – you'll be keeping your family fit and healthy and also burning extra calories yourself – it's a win-win!
As always planning is the key. Not only with activities, but also food. If you are out for the day, take a healthy picnic with you. Or you might want to check out restaurants on the Nutracheck website or App to find the lowest calorie meal options...with the British weather, it's usually best to have a rainy day contingency plan!
Nutritionist Emma Brown, MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.