Many people think of kids being more active during the summer since they have time to play outside but a recent study says many kids struggle to keep a healthy weight during summer months.
In a study published in May in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers tracked the eating habits of kids ages 8-12.
Specifically, they looked at the kid’s consumption of fruits, vegetables, fruit/vegetable juices and sugar-sweetened beverages.
They found children were snacking more and often, consuming too much sugar and not enough water.
The study pointed out that kids have easier access to snacks in the summer and can be more sedentary without the structure of the school day.
Children in lower-income homes were more at risk, according to the study.
Dr. Kanika Shanker of Wellspan Endocrinology in Chambersburg answered our questions to provide viewers with more information on how to best keep their kids healthy this summer.
Q: What does a healthy diet look like for each level… elementary school-aged kids, middle schoolers, high schoolers?
A: The recommendation for people of all ages is to follow a balanced diet consisting of all the major food groups as recommended by the government’s nutrition guidelines on myplate.org. Fruits, vegetables, protein, grains and dairy make up a balanced diet. It is important for children and teenagers to develop healthy eating and exercise habits early to help them maintain healthy habits in adulthood.
Q: During summer the study says children tend to eat more fruits and drink more sugary drinks… what sugar levels should parents watch for?
A: Kids between two and 18 should have less than 25 grams or 6 teaspoons of added sugars daily. That’s about 100 extra calories from sugar. Children and teens should limit intake of sugar-sweetened drinks to no more than eight ounces weekly. That’s less than a can of soda a week!
Q: How much sugar is too much for kids?
A: Sugar is an inherent part of multiple food items that we eat. Anything more than the recommended amount will lead to health issues in children. In some children even taking the recommended amount with lack of physical activity can lead to health issues.
We encourage consumption of whole fruit rather than fruit juice. No more than one-half of the recommended daily servings of fruit should be provided in the form of 100 percent fruit juice (rather than “fruit drinks”). Age-appropriate limits for 100 percent fruit juice are as follows:
●One through 3 years – 4 ounces (120 mL)
●Four through 6 years – 4 to 6 ounces (120 to 180 mL)
●≥7 years – 8 ounces (240 mL)
Q: Is sugar harmful to children’s health? Why?
A: Excessive sugar can lead to increased weight gain. It can also lead to the various metabolic problems such as elevation of bad cholesterol, elevation of blood fat, decrease in good cholesterol, high blood pressure and problems in our body utilizing insulin properly also known as insulin resistance.
Q: What are some tips to keep kids healthy this summer and avoid summer weight gain?
A: For kids to avoid summer weight gain it is important they stay active. When they are in school, there’s a sort of structure to the day often including some kind of activity mid-day.
Make sure kids get enough sleep and limit the amount of time they spend in front of the screen.
Give them opportunities to stay active, giving them chores to do around the home is a good way to keep them moving especially on dangerously hot or rainy days.
Keep meal and snack times consistent through the day. If kids do go for a snack, make sure you have plenty of healthy options on hand to avoid some of that extra sugar intake.Dr. Shanker is a pediatric specialist providing endocrine and diabetes care to children starting from newborn to late teenage years.
Water is a healthy alternative to juices and soda.
By age, the recommended daily amount of fluids is:
5 glasses for 5 to 8 year olds
7 glasses for 9 to 12 year olds
8 to 10 glasses for 13+ years
Adults fall into the 8-10 glasses a day category but that can be impacted by medication, climate and exercise.
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