It’s summer! Is this what your eating schedule looks like (constant asking for food and/or eating)? The kids are home, they’re hungry, restless, off-schedule, etc., so they eat. Or they bug you for food. Sound familiar? Here are five tips for making summer eating a little more manageable.
1. Maintain an eating schedule with extra snack times
Establish an eating schedule, including meals and sit-down snacks, that work for you and your kids, and stick to it. Kids and teens enjoy predictability. Ask for their input on timing, and how they’d like to structure the day. Of course, it can be loose, it’s the summer after all and days are longer with often fewer responsibilities (and you never know when the ice cream truck will come!). However, knowing when meals and snacks will be available gives your kids reassurance that they won’t go hungry, keeps them from sneaking or hoarding food, and keeps them in tune with their body’s hunger and fullness cues.
2. Help your adolescent nourish themselves
Nourishment isn’t only about food, it’s also feeding your emotional, mental, and spiritual self. Vacation can have adolescents feeling at loose-ends without a schedule to depend on and turning to food as a way to fill time and feelings. Help your adolescent identify activities or hobbies they may be interested in pursuing. Be prepared for them not to have any ideas and be perfectly satisfied with lounging in the home all summer. Allow that for some time- rest is important! And then provide them with a list of your own ideas and suggestions. Suggestions may include creative projects (various types of art, writing, dancing, etc.), reflective or grounding practices (journaling, rock stacking, yoga, etc.) active ideas (biking, skateboarding, building, etc.), learning a new skill, or anything else your adolescent may be interested in.
3. Support proper hydration
While we’re not concerned about adolescents misinterpreting thirst for hunger (they’re distinct sensations), when adolescents aren’t properly hydrated that can affect their appetite and overall wellness.
Adolescents need to stay hydrated, especially if they’re outdoors and being active. Fluid needs increase as we age, generally due to increased body size, but activity level also plays an important role in how much fluid we need. While there are general recommendations for daily requirements, personal needs vary depending on temperature, activity and food eaten (yes, food counts toward fluid needs). The best recommendation is to drink often and when thirsty. Monitoring urine frequency and colour can give some insight into hydration level- urine should be light yellow (not dark, and not clear!), not be too smelly, and multiple times per day.
Create a culture of hydration: Keep cold water available, have ice cubes or fun add-ins, assign water bottles or straws, and serve drinks at meals and snacks.
If your adolescent is very active in hot weather, water may not be enough to keep them hydrated, and electrolyte drinks may be necessary to keep on-hand.
4. Keep to a sleeping schedule
Though longer nights and less pressured schedules may leave you wanting less hassle around bedtime, supporting your adolescent’s positive sleeping habits can be helpful for appetite. A lack of sleep affects appetite, with lowered level of leptin-the satiety hormone, and increased levels of ghrelin -the hunger hormone. When adolescents and teens get enough sleep, their body is able to regulate better and they can better tune into their body’s hunger needs and choose the food they want to nourish themselves.
5. Support increased growth & development
Many adolescents undergo their growth spurt over the summer. This can be due to being more active, sleeping better, and experiencing less stress. They need more fuel too! Eating more frequently can be your adolescent working to meet their increased nutritional needs. Support their growth with meals and snacks that include fat and carbohydrates, protein and fruits or vegetables.