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Structure needed to help kids avoid summer weight gain

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Structure needed to help kids avoid summer weight gain

By Paul Nelson | Posted - Jun. 24, 2014 at 7:31 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — Could a child’s summer break be making them fat? Researchers say kids tend to gain more weight over the summer months.

When some people think of summer vacation, they imagine kids outside playing or riding their bikes. But the truth could be very different. In a recent article from NBC, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health were cited as saying weight gain accelerated during the summer, especially among African-American and Latino kids, and teens who are already overweight.

Nutritionists in Utah have some ideas as to why that is.

“In the summer time, there is no structure, or very little, and so they have the opportunity to eat any time they want during the day," said Robin Aufdenkampe, clinical nutrition manager with Primary Children’s Hospital. "It might not necessarily be the healthiest food."

She said more and more schools are trying to provide healthier options for children, but when kids don’t have those healthy options, they’ll reach for anything that can grab quickly at home: “A lot of kids might be responsible for making their own snacks or their own lunch,” she said.

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Sometimes parents will buy treats for themselves and hide them from their children, but Aufdenkampe said kids are able to find a lot of stuff their parents buy. She said it’s best to not have the junk food in the house at all: “You’ve got all the fresh fruits and a lot of fresh vegetables and those things are less expensive in the summer time,” she said.

She also said kids are not getting the exercise their parents might expect them to get: “If you have a child that’s home all summer and not in a structured environment, they could have double or triple the screen time, if somebody’s not watching them,” she said.

Plus, Aufdenkampe said, kids can frequently confuse boredom for hunger so she recommends parents provide their kids with plenty of things to do to keep them occupied and hopefully away from the fridge.

Paul Nelson

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