Photo: Waikiki Beach

by Tandis Bishop, RDN

As the school year is coming to an end, it’s a good time to begin creating plans for a healthy summer. Summer is an easy time to fall off the health-wagon, but maintaining healthy habits and even creating new ones is best for long-term health and wellness for you and your family. Today, in Hawai'i, 57 percent of adults are overweight or obese, as are almost 1 in 3 children entering kindergarten.i Alongside this is the concern for childhood Type 2 Diabetes, as researchers suspect increases in obesity among young people is driving the new epidemic. Type 2 Diabetes used to be unheard of in children and young adults but today it is prevalent and getting worse every year. The increase in Type 2 Diabetes in young people over the past 20 years has been directly linked to the growing obesity rates in youth. More than 80 percent of all children and adolescents with type 2 Diabetes are overweight or obese.ii,iii

Although it’s important to have plenty of fun, it’s also important to continue making healthy choices during vacations and those long summer days. Here are some simple ways to maintain a healthy family lifestyle in the upcoming months:

Freedom from routine in the summer can be a lot of fun, but remember to keep a healthy mealtime schedule. Start every morning with a healthy breakfast. Pack fresh sandwiches and snack items if you are planning on being out most of the day. And make sure your kids continue to get adequate sleep.

An unstructured schedule in the summer can lead to unhealthy snacking for many kids. With extra free time on their hands, they may think they are hungry but are often really just bored. So think about setting limits around snacks and snack times. Limit the junk food and offer easy and healthy snacks. See below for healthy snack ideas.

Cut back on social media and TV time and replace it with more active time. Find a healthy balance. Spend a few hours swimming at the beach and end the day with an evening movie. Or turn off all digital devices and TV a couple times a week and instead read books, play board games, and engage in physical activity together.

Ways to Stay Active

  • Schedule daily physical activity for your children. Enroll them in summer soccer or basketball camp. Most local district parks offer free summer physical activity classes, so sign up now before classes get filled! Have regular beach days with boogie boards, volleyball, and/or paddling.
  • Go for family walks or head to the skate park in the evening when it’s cooler.
  • Plan for different hikes on the weekends. There are many to choose from all over islands. See Having a Healthy Hawaiian Summer for more hiking information.
  • To compete with smartphones, tables, PCs and TV, make your backyard irresistible to kids. Have a backyard water slide, easy to set up and cost-efficient. Let them have fun with squirt-gun chases or freeze tag. Have a box of footballs, frisbees, baseballs and mitts. Keep them hydrated with lots of water and fresh fruit.

Healthy Snack Ideas

  • Watermelon and other melon slices are refreshing and full of antioxidants.
  • Add fresh or frozen berries to your morning cereal or yogurt.
  • Frozen grapes are an easy, fun, icy treat (for kids over 5).
  • Make popsicles with whole fruit (just blend and pour).
  • Cheese sticks with fruit or multigrain crackers.
  • Bananas or apples with peanut or almond butter.
  • Have a variety of washed, cut, and ready to eat veggies in your fridge.
  • Dried fruit n’ nut trailmix makes a great on-the-go snack. DIY with mixed nuts and dried raisins and cranberries.
Footnotes: 

i Richards, K. et al. The Childhood Obesity Prevention Task Force (ACT 269): recommendations for obesity prevention in Hawai'i. Hawaii J Med Public Health. 2013 Mar;72(3):102-6.
ii National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. National Diabetes Statistics. November 2005. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics#category=...
iii Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes in Youth. Accessed on  April 17, 2015