Schools Out For the Summer: Keeping Healthy Kids Over the Summer

Thursday, May 31, 2018 1:28 PM

“School’s out! Yes!” That is the war cry for many a student at the last bell of the last day of the school year. While some parents are relieved because they don’t have to really worry about sick kids for at least a few months, others are now like, “what am I gonna do with these kids for the next three months?” Either way you look at it, it’s a safe bet that any parent would want to keep their kids as healthy as possible during their summer break from school. This never seemed to be a big concern when I was growing up, but these days it seems children are getting sicker much easier than the generations before them. I have some suggestions that may help you maintain your kids’ health while they are away from school.

Structure. Due to the fact that your kids really don’t have to be anywhere in particular from sun up to mid afternoon, most children take this opportunity to both stay up later than normal and wake up in the same manner. There is nothing in and of itself wrong with this at all, we adults do this too when on vacation and on our off days; however this lack of structure can sometimes contribute to both laziness and a bad diet. Many upper income households will send their children to some kind of “camp” from a week to several weeks over the summer in an effort to both keep their child occupied and have some semblance of structure. I’ve seen kids being sent to a typical summer camp, where they do “outdoorsy” types of activities; while other parents send their offspring to more specialized camps such as "wrestling camp”, “gymnastic camp”,… as a child I was sent to “basketball camp” for a week in mid summer. As for those that will be staying home for the entire summer, some sort of structure will have to be implemented on your own. I’m not talking the same controlled environment they face during the school year, but maybe fix breakfast or all meals at the same time each day. 

Diet. Unless you send your child off to a camp, this may be the one thing you have the most control over. When you think about summer-type foods, I think the following come to mind: hot dogs, ice cream, hamburgers, and soft drinks. The problem is these are usually the very same foods that contribute to ill health. It’s safe bet you have heard how bad hot dogs are to give to children so I won’t even go into that. There are studies on the effects of high fructose corn syrup found in soft drinks that lead to obesity as well as type 2 diabetes. Ice cream is loaded with sugar and dairy, which many people are finding out they are lactose intolerant. Of course there are the regular candy runs kids make to the store. These foods can be eaten in moderation, no one wants to be a health fanatic when they are trying to enjoy their summer break, but there are healthier ways to eat on a more frequent basis. For breakfast, instead of one of those popular cereals kids see commericals for, why not fix them some oatmeal with honey and raisins? You could even introduce some healthier grains like buckwheat and barley into the mix, sweetened with either honey or blue agave. Add some banana, apple, or raisin to it. My personal favorite for a morning start is a smoothie with almond milk, banana, and an assortment of herbs; but a plain old fruit smoothie with almond, coconut, walnut, or hemp milk could do the trick. Maybe save the bacon and eggs breakfast for the weekend. A salad by itself won’t do much to satisfy an active child, let alone teenager, but could be a major part of the meal. Try foods such as fish twice a week. Wild caught atlantic salmon is one of the best, but that kind of fish isn’t cheap and many kids or teenagers don’t really care for it. You could make tuna fish for them, or even baked or grilled catfish. As healthy as seafood is, because of the high levels of mercury being found in several varieties we have to scale back their use in the diet. Factory farmed seafood, like catfish in also something to avoid. I don’t recommend tilapia at all. Baked or grilled chicken breast with some sort of veggies are always a great meal; and summer vegetables like the squashes go great with both chicken and seafood. Homemade lemonade is a great alternative to soft drinks. As much as I enjoy sweet tea, I can’t recommend it on a regular basis. For one, it’s hard on the kidneys, and two, it’s loaded with sugar. Some fresh juiced fruit juice is a healthier option but should be cut with water to lower the sugar(fructose) content. Without the fiber of the fruit, the fructose could have some adverse effects on the health, not near as many though as the high fructose version. There are other tea options available than just black tea to drink. Just check the tea aisle at your local grocery store for options. There are ice cream-like treats that can be made with bananas and there are great recipes available online for them.

Herbs. As an herbalist I always recommend some type of herbs for general health, and summertime health is no different. I always recommend blood cleansing herbs, because blood is life. A good one to take is burdock root, which herbalists have recommended as one of the most powerful blood cleansers out there. With the summer heat, being able to breathe becomes a necessity because that hot summer air can feel like it sits on your chest. Though not an herb, celery is a good one to around during the hot summer months. Dr. Norman Walker, the father of juicing here in America, taught that it’s high sodium chloride content can help individuals deal with hot weather much better. Chrysanthemum is another herb known for a cooling effect on the body, but it can naturally lower the blood pressure; so it should be avoided if you have naturally low blood pressure or are on a low blood pressure medication.

Exercise. Growing up, I was basically an introvert, so I didn’t go outside that often. Wasn’t really into sports or anything competitive like that; but I was actually pretty good at baseball and had a good outside shot in basketball when I actually got out there and played. Despite all that, summer was the time for the pool! Swimming is a great exercise to take part in during the summer months, or all year round if you have access to an indoor pool. It’s a virtually no-impact exercise that can burn a decent amount of calories, and many kids will stay at the pool for hours just playing around in it. Basketball is a sport that is played more in the warm and hot weather than most any other sport, and is also a favorite game to play in the summer months. Not really considered a sport, walking is probably the best form of exercise for all ages. Just being outside during the summer months is considered healthy, but care must be taken with sunlight exposure. The sun is usually at it’s highest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and the fairer your skin, the more you need to go slow with your sun exposure. If your child hasn’t been out in the sun all year and has fair skin( as in most caucasian people, many asian and latino culture, and light skin people of African descent) it may be better to start them out a few minutes a day, adding more time each day and avoiding the hottest times of the day like early and late afternoon until they are used to the sunlight.

Other things to consider. On top of what I already mentioned, it’s of course to drink an adequate amount of water, as dehydration is a real consideration in the hot summer months. You also lose minerals like sodium in sweat during this time of year so a good drink to have on hand is coconut water, due to its high electrolyte(mineral) content. You could add some healthier form of salt like pink himalayan( make sure it’s not mined in Pakistan, that form has a high amount of heavy metals in it), or sea salt from Utah to distilled water as well. Be careful letting your kids sleep with their shirts off, especially if sleeping under a ceiling fan. Your house can cool down significantly in the late night hours and your kids can catch a summer cold if they don’t have their chest covered at night while sleeping. Summer colds suck, period! Following these recommendations may help your child have a happier, healthier summer. Save the sickness for when they go back to school lol!

Third Power Vitality. Copyright 2018