SLJ 7 - Ways to stay healthy during the school holidays

The summer holidays are a time that we remember with such fondness when we recall our childhoods. But they can conjure up very different images when organising family trips and thinking of ways to keep your children entertained for weeks on end. Not only this, but all too often we endure disruption to the normal order of things. If you feel that the school holidays are a time where your health and fitness regime is abandoned until the autumn, and leaves you wanting to tear out your hair, then we have some help for you.

 1 - Be prepared!

We are far more likely to make unhealthy food choices when we don’t plan ahead, and during a busy summer holiday it can be all too easy to grab food on the go, opt for an easy takeaway or absent-mindedly grab an unhealthy snack because we forgot to eat breakfast. If you have children who are at school or nursery and the summer holidays mean that your routine changes, it is likely that your eating and exercise habits will too. Many people are able to stick to healthy eating and exercise regime when the rest of their lives are organised and in check, but that can all change when your routine does and you are spending weeks trying to entertain children and plan creative and fun things to do. Whether you are entertaining a brood of children, or simply taking a break from your normal routine aim to keep a check on what you and your family is eating to prevent unwanted holiday weight gain.

Quick tips - don’t food shop when hungry, always eat a well-balanced, large breakfast, try and batch cook big, healthy family meals in order to free up your time

2 - Stay active - whatever the weather!

We all optimistically hope for a summer of hot days, balmy evenings and light inspiring weather. Unfortunately the reality doesn’t always match up with our ideals. It is important to ensure that whatever the weather you don’t let it get in the way of keeping fit and active throughout the holidays. Many children don’t mind what the weather does, so long as they are entertained and can get outside and have fun. And we all know a tired, exercised child at bedtime is far preferable to a grumpy, frustrated one who won’t settle. Aim to use the car as little as possible and walk wherever you can, ensure that your summertime activities include lots of movement. Be creative; devise outdoor games in the woods and parklands, beaches or just in the garden. If you need some assistance, then there are lots of activity groups for children in the area and this gives you time to continue with your exercise programme for an hour or two each day. If your children are older and enjoy exercising with you then you can create circuit-type games, or running sessions. 

Quick tips - think of varied and fun activities for you and your children, organise picnics in the park with friends and bring bats and balls to create fun team games. It doesn’t need to be complicated or costly. You just need some basic kit and a bit of green space!

3 - Just one Cornetto, or maybe two….

When we are in holiday mode, there is a tendency to think the odd ice cream here or there doesn’t really count, and to be fair a few Magnums over a few weeks won’t make a huge difference. The problem arises when they become a daily feature of the summer holiday. We often pacify our children with the promise of a sweet treat, and when our nerves are frayed it can be all to easy to give in and provide them (and ourselves) with too many sugary treats. Keep stocked up on the fruit and the less calorific options. Try not to get into habits that are likely to be unhealthy to you and them. The key is to stay aware. We are more likely to let things slide when our eye is off the ball. Remember weight tends to go on much quicker than it comes off so limit yourself to a couple of treats a week only.

Quick tips - make homemade natural fruit lollies, great fun with the children. All you need is natural fruit juice, fresh fruit, water and some lolly moulds. Easy!

4 - Fancy a sundowner?

A chilled glass of rosé or two on a summer’s evening is the perfect antidote to a hectic day, but do keep an eye on how much you are drinking. It can be all too easy to work your way through a few glasses or even a bottle with your partner, and before you know where you are it becomes a nightly occurrence. The odd glass of something a couple of times a week is fine, but when it starts to creep into every evening then it can become a problem. Alcohol not only contains empty calories, it can also negatively impact on our sleep, mood and appetite. Unfortunately many of us associate a glass of wine with the end of the day and the beginning of a relaxing evening, so we need to ensure that we are not wishing the day away in order to dive into that glass!

Quick tips – plan to have a few alcohol-free days a week, look for different ways to relax that don’t involve alcohol - a 30 minute run, a long relaxing bath, watching a great programme 

5 - Sleep - are you getting enough?

I don’t meet many people who would answer ‘yes’ to this question. In fact most people with young children will openly laugh at the idea that they have good quality, regular sleep! However tricky it may be, we need to be aware of how much sleep we are getting and if it is falling short of the desired amount, then we need to try and remedy this where possible. If we are sleep deprived then we are more likely to grab highly sugary convenience foods during the day in order to help sustain our energy. Our bodies will crave the foods that it can break down for energy in the quickest time (high carbohydrate), which is why you will find yourself craving cakes, biscuits and stodgy foods when you are tired. This can obviously be a huge problem in terms of health and weight gain. If you are tired then you are less likely to want to do anything energetic and will probably opt for switching on the TV so you can grab a few minutes of peace. This becomes a vicious cycle. The less energy you have, the less you want to move.

Quick tips - aim for a few early nights a week. It can be all too tempting to stay up and indulge in child-free time, but there is little point in flopping in front of the sofa until 11:30pm when you could head to bed a couple of hours earlier and increase your sleeping time. The hours before midnight are more beneficial, so if you can get to sleep before 10pm a few nights a week then this will benefit you hugely. On the days you feel exhausted, try and keep active. It may be the last thing you feel like doing, but fresh air and exercise will help to pull you out of the fog

6 - Stay hydrated

We all know water is essential for good health, but it can be easy to forget to drink it regularly when we are busy. Thirst and hunger provide the brain with very similar signals, so it is worth noting that when you think you feel hungry, you may in fact be thirsty. It is always worth sipping a large glass of water before a meal or when you feel hungry to see if the hunger pangs abate. This can help to reduce the risk of overeating, or grabbing a snack when you aren’t really hungry. If you and the children are busy and enjoying an active summer holiday, then you will all need to stay hydrated.  If your exercise levels are increasing, or the weather is hot, then your water levels will need to be increased to reflect this.

Quick tips - aim to have a glass of water before every meal, keep a bottle of water with you at all times - in the car, bag, and buggy. Make it easy to keep hydrated throughout the day

7 - Watch your stress levels

It is safe to say that many people approach the summer holidays and can feel their stress levels rising. No school, long holidays and activities to plan and a general change in routine can leave many of us feeling overwhelmed. We all know that prolonged stress isn’t good for us and should be avoided, but easier said than done! Looking back on the points above, by keeping most of these in mind during the holidays then we may find we can go into September feeling slightly less frazzled than expected. Stress levels can often rise when we feel out of control of certain situations, and this will vary from person-to-person. So, if we know that we have organised the meals for the week, have the activities planned and can aim for the odd hour or so to do something for ourselves, then it begins to feel more manageable. Life rarely goes to plan, but just feeling like we have some semblance of control can often help us to remain on an even keel.

Quick tips - All of the above! If you know what your stress-drivers are then find ways to counteract them. Ultimately you want to enjoy your summer as much as your family, so ensure that you can use the above tips to help you to stay calm and happy through out the next few weeks!