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Summer is officially here and so too are summer holidays.

But keeping children healthy as well as entertained can be a daunting task. It’s often tempting to order in pizza when putting on a DVD to placate a giggling group of over-excited children.

So here are some healthier alternatives we hope will help keep kids healthy as well as out of mischief this summer holiday.

Making healthy food choices fun

With school lunches out of the picture and more meals to think of it’s often hard to keep food healthy. Here are 10 top tips to get your children eating more fibre, fruit and veg and less red or processed meat, salt, and other less healthy foods.

Taking you from this:

Source: giphy

To this:

Source: giphy

Our top tips

  1. Serving up sweet and crunchy vegetables like carrots and peppers is a great way to get children eating more veg.  They’ll enjoy the sweetness and crunch and cutting them into bite size pieces makes a great snack to nibble on.
  2. Make a tea-time favourite healthier and get the children involved in cooking it too. Colourful vegetables on a make-your-own pizza, or fresh fruit on top of ice cream, are good ways to start. Getting your children involved in making the food will help them to enjoy it more.
  3. Lead by example and eat healthily yourself. Chances are if you are eating well your children will too.
  4. If at first you don’t succeed, wait a bit – then try, try, try again. Research shows that tiny tastes of different foods can help children change their preferences. *warning* it might take all summer!
  5. Serving different types of vegetables will also help, as kids will be able to choose what they like.
  6. Making healthy eating more fun is a great way to encourage it. Serve up fruit as funny faces or shapes and turn 5-a-day into a game with wall charts and stickers as a reward.
  7. Try to limit sweets and crisps as treats and offer alternative rewards like extra playtime.

As well as increasing the amount of fruit and veg your children eat it’s important to keep the rest of their diet healthy too.

  1. Having a BBQ? Why not have chicken or fish instead of red meat – and get the kids involved in making salads or veg side dishes. Try to make sure the food isn’t burnt by starting it off in the oven, then finishing it on the grill.
  2. Having a diet low in processed meat is really good for the whole family. Try to avoid too much bacon and sausage. Instead look at using beans and pulses as a substitute.
  3. Always check the salt content of food that you buy. Too much salt isn’t good for anyone and it often hides in foods you might not expect. Be particularly wary of ready meals.

Get them moving!

As well as eating healthily, it’s really important to ensure that kids are keeping active this summer holiday. Over at Change4Life, they’ve teamed up with Disney to help get children moving.  Their 10 minute shake up is full of ideas to help children be active and entertained, from ‘The Incredibles’ Dodgeball’ to ‘Woody and Jessie’s  balloon rodeo’ – have a look and see what works for you.

Children should be getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. This needn’t be done all at once but can be broken down across the day. The 10 minute shake up is a great way to start working towards those 60 minutes.

Activities such as walking to the shops or a trip to the playground all count towards those 60 minutes but it’s also important to get more vigorous activity from things like playing chase or swimming.

But this shouldn’t just be something that happens for a couple of months each year. Keeping children active and eating healthily over the summer holiday not only helps them have a great summer, but teaches them ways to keep healthy that will stay with them for life.

Protecting their delicate skin

If you’re outside this summer it’s important to be safe in the sun to avoid sunburn and reduce the risk of skin cancer in later life. Taking care now and reducing sun exposure and damage this summer will benefit your children for years to come.

If they’re playing outside then try to play in the shade, especially when the sun is strongest between 11am and 3pm. If there isn’t any shade it’s important to cover up with hats and T-shirts when you can.

Staying in the shade and covering up are the best way to protect skin from long term UV damage. But for the bits that clothes and shade can’t reach, apply generous amounts of sunscreen regularly. And make sure the sunscreen is at least SPF 15 and has as high a star rating as possible.

These are just some of our suggestions for healthy holidays, and we hope that armed with our top tips you and your family enjoy a great summer break.

Tom Stansfeld is a health information officer at Cancer Research UK

Want to find out more?

Visit the healthy living pages on the website.

Beach image from MorgueFile

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Dr Mills August 13, 2014

Tom – repeat after me “A sausage is not processed meat”, “A sausage is not processed meat”, “A sausage is not processed meat”