How to Keep Kids Active and Eat Healthy During All Seasons

Article Contributed by Staff of The Meadows Ranch

Summer for kids means so many different things – vacations, summer camp, swimming, free time, and best of all, no school. In the summer, schedules change, routines are broken, and patterns are modified.

For some children, this change in routine during the summer could create an imbalance in eating and activity level.  Also, the heat is often immobilizing making it a bit more difficult to stay active and eat healthy.

Understanding a Parent’s Role in Healthy Behaviors

Helping kids stay active during summer time may pose a challenge for parents.  Also, kids today face many different options for food and activity than past generations.

With an abundance of inexpensive, high-calorie, low nutrient-dense, tasty, unsupervised food choices coupled with entertainment much more sedentary than “play”, children may be exposed to an increased risk of becoming overweight. What is a parent’s role in healthy eating and what to do?

Top 10 Tips for Parents Who Want Healthy Kids:

1. Be a good role model. Do not follow fad diets for weight loss; eat intuitively. Choose from a variety of foods that are tasteful and satisfying. Eat when hungry; stop when not hungry anymore.

2. Promote Size Acceptance. All bodies are shaped differently; this is natural and a part of one’s genetic makeup. Fostering an environment of size acceptance and diversity in shape helps to promote a child’s own self-acceptance and well-being. Differences are welcomed, not feared.

3. Use positive body language. Are you constantly talking about the weight you want to lose? How much better you would look if you could lose these last 10 pounds? Commenting on others’ appearance and making judgments? Talking positively about one’s own body will model a healthy self-concept.

4. Allow for freedom of choice within structure.  Provide food options for children within reason: one snack may be either an apple with peanut butter or graham crackers and milk; another may be a cereal bar or two small cookies. If given the opportunity, children are wonderful intuitive eaters. Make healthy food choices easily accessible and available.

5. Create a positive environment around food and eating. We know that children excel emotionally and academically in an environment in which they feel loved and safe (Your Child’s Weight, Helping without Harming, chapter 3, “Make family meals a priority”, Ellyn Satter, MS, RD, LCSW, BCD). The dinner table is a terrific venue for providing this kind of safety.

Family standing bare footMake it a rule for the family to eat at least one meal together per day. Keep the conversation positive. The child will associate the context of the meal with positive feelings which in turn promote a healthy relationship with food.  

Research has shown that regular family dinners are associated with a decreased risk in many disorders in teens, including eating disorders, substance abuse, and mood disorders, including depression and anxiety [1].

6. Develop Critical Thinking Skills. Media images and messages about food and bodies are often distorted and kids are the most vulnerable to these messages. Teach them to be watchdogs of the media!  Parents can question advertisements, messages and use talkback techniques with their kids when hearing messages that both discourage healthy realistic attitudes and behaviors related to beauty, body image, eating and weight.

7. Be active. This can be difficult especially with teens during the summer.  Limit screen time per day: television, computer, video games, text messaging, etc.

Build in family activity time to encourage a lifestyle of activity. Set clear expectations for chores done by the child around the house; do not apologize for requiring the child to contribute to the household in this way. Invent games while doing chores. Plan active family vacations: hiking, biking, rollerblading, swimming, etc.

Family with foster children8. Involve the child in menu planning. Invite the child’s preferences when planning the weekly menu without dictating the entire menu. Include the child in grocery shopping and meal preparation when possible.  These are great teachable moments.

9. Everyone should eat the same meal at dinner time. Resist the urge to make a special plate for the child who refuses to eat what is served. Allow the child to decide if she/he will eat and if so, how much; the parent decides what will be served and when.  Parents must be consistent on this issue or they will indefinitely be short-order cooks on demand for the child.

10. Eat with balance, variety, and moderation. Do not require the child to finish everything on his plate. Provide a variety of flavors, colors, textures and aromas in food to expand the child’s food repertoire. Depending on the child’s age, portion food appropriately or let the child portion on her own. Small, frequent meals and snacks allow the body’s metabolism to work most efficiently.

According to the Academy of Pediatrics, parental directives intended to encourage or restrict children’s consumption of various foods may have adverse consequences and regulation of intake [2].  

Research has also demonstrated that parents, as the primary role models for their children, can positively influence their children’s health by their own dietary habits and healthy relationship with food [3]. By following these tips and suggestions, parents can help create a positive tone in their household for their children’s overall health and wellness.

Article Contributed by Staff of The Meadows Ranch:

For over 25 years, The Meadows Ranch has offered an unparalleled depth of care through its unique, comprehensive, and individualized program for treating eating disorders and co-occurring conditions affecting adolescent girls and women. Set on scenic ranch property in the healing landscape of Wickenburg, Arizona, The Meadows Ranch allows for seamless transitions between its structured multi-phase treatment. A world-class clinical team of industry experts leads the treatment approach designed to uncover and understand the “whys” of the eating disorder through a host of proven modalities. Providing individuals with tools to re-engage in a healthy relationship with food – and with themselves – disempowers eating disorders and empowers individuals with a renewed enthusiasm for life. Contact us today at 888-496-5498 and find out why The Meadows Ranch is the best choice for eating disorder treatment and recovery. For more information call 1-888-496-5498. or visit


[1]: The relationship between frequency of family dinner and adolescent problem behaviors after adjusting for other family characteristics Journal of Adolescence, Volume 33, Issue 1, Pages 187-196
[2]: Leann L Birch, PhD, et al.  Development of Eating Behaviors Among Children and Adolescents, Pediatrics 1998;101: 539-549
[3]: Live Science, “Parents Blamed For Childhood Obesity”,

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Edited & Published on June 27, 2017.
Recently Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 1, 2018
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