Your kid’s diet may not be picture-perfect all the time but during the week, you probably do your best to offer vegetables, cut down on processed foods, and cook healthy meals.
By the time Friday rolls around however, all bets are off. Whether it’s calling out for pizza, ordering take out, or munching on popcorn for movie night, all those healthy eating rules can go right out the window.
WEEKEND EATING, WEEKEND FOODS & YOUR KID’S HEALTH
There’s no doubt that weekends are a time to kick back and have fun. These 3 days are often jam-packed with sports, birthday parties, and dinners with extended family or friends—and lots of opportunities to eat.
On the weekends, I’ll often take my kids out for a slice of pizza, or let them have a snack that’s off limits during the week.
As it turns out, most moms are like me.
An April 2018 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found kids eat larger portions of unhealthy foods and beverages and eat them more frequently on the weekends while their consumption of healthy fare takes a nosedive.
The study, suggests that moms perceive the foods they let their kids eat to be “weekend foods,” and their children’s health and the cost of food become less important on those days. Mothers also may think about the weekends as a time when there’s less structure and schedules, which lend themselves to eating out more, the authors note.
CURB WEEKEND EATING
Regardless of how well your kids eat during the week, too many poor choices on the weekend can decrease any of the healthy benefits you’re hoping for. When it comes to weekend eating, there are some reasons to think twice about what you feed your kids and where you eat.
You probably don’t want to spend your weekends in the kitchen but making a habit of taking your kids out to eat can affect their health.
Most kids’ meals in restaurants are high in calories, sodium, sugar, and saturated fat and the portion sizes are usually too large—even those on the kids’ menu. In fact, according to a 2013 report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, 97 percent of kids’ meals at 34 top chain restaurants failed to meet expert nutrition standards.
Foods made with refined carbohydrates can also spike your kid’s blood sugar, which isn’t a big deal every once in awhile, but diets high in these types of foods are associated with an increased risk for type-2 diabetes so you shouldn’t make it a habit.
A hamburger and fries or a slice of cake at a kid’s birthday party probably won’t be enough for you to see drastic shifts in your child’s weight. Yet if most of your kid’s weekend eating is away from home and what they’re eating isn’t so healthy, it can add up quickly and lead to weight gain.
Sports and Activity Levels
Studies show kids watch more TV on the weekends and exercise less. If your kids play sports or are more active on the weekends, they might burn it off but if they’re laying around playing video games or on the iPad, you might see the pounds pack on.
What’s more, if your kids do play sports, what they eat on the weekends is even more important. You want to make sure they’re eating foods that fuel them and give them steady energy—not make them feel sluggish or cranky.
Teaching kids how to be healthy eaters isn’t only about what they eat. Habits like eating family meals together, eating slowly and mindfully, eating for hunger and knowing when you’re full—can all go to the wayside on the weekends. Teaching kids healthy eating habits when they’re young can help ensure they stick with those habits throughout their lives.
HOW TO EAT HEALTHY ON THE WEEKEND—AND STILL ENJOY
I’m not suggesting you give up eating or ditch dessert, but you can help your family eat healthy and indulge a bit on the weekends.
First, come up with a plan to eat out less that is realistic and works for your family. Maybe it means making a double batch of a meal or having healthy options on hand like salad, avocado, and beans for a quick and easy meal.
Make healthy substitutions
When you do eat out, choose (or ask for) foods that are grilled instead of fried, swap fries for vegetables, or order appetizers instead of a meal. When your child’s meal arrives, ask for a to-go container and portion out half to prevent him from overeating.
Strike a balance
If you’re overly restrictive on the weekends, your kids may be more likely to overindulge when they’re not with you so balance is key.
Perhaps that means eating most weekend meals at home and making a trip out to your favorite ice cream spot or packing healthy fare when you’re out and about and letting your kids have an after-dinner treat.