It’s easier said than done getting teens to follow the American Heart Association recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Telling them to stop eating their favorite foods can be just as difficult. Summertime offers you an opportunity to vary your child’s weight loss efforts through a variety of outdoor activities and get more involved in buying, cooking and eating fresh foods.
Learn Their Calorie Numbers
It’s easy to find the correct daily calories you should eat based on your age, sex and activity level, using the USDA calorie chart. Subtract 500 calories per day from this number on days your teen won’t be exercising, or burn 500 calories extra on exercise days to lose 1 lb. of weight each week. You can split those numbers, reducing calories by 250 and burning 250 extra calories with exercise.
Meeting with a registered dietitian will help you get a more accurate number for your teen, as well as helpful ideas for meals and snacks.
Create Fun “Triathlon” Workouts
While your child may not be ready for an Iron Man race, you can create your own trifecta of physical activities with rewards for performance. A traditional triathlon has you swimming, cycling and running all during the same race. You can have your child perform all three of these activities (or others) during the course of a week. For example, go swimming one day, cycling the next and jogging the next, keeping track of times or distances each week with an end-of-the-month or end-of-summer goal.
You can substitute roller skating for jogging. If you don’t have access to a pool, substitute working out on an exercise machine for one leg of the “triathlon.” If your child is new to exercise or too obese for a high-impact activity like jogging skating, add a power walk. Buy your child a heart-rate monitor to let him see daily results in calories burned and average heart rate and any improvements. Create a chart to encourage him when he sees his results improving.
You can split a workout into three different activities, reducing boredom and repetitive stress by doing each activity for 20 minutes. Try a 20-minute walk, 20 minutes on a bike (you can use a bike stand for indoor exercise) and one other exercise that lasts 20 minutes. A 30-minute workout flies by when you split it into three, 10-minute sessions.
Teach Them About Their Food
It may be easier to get your teen to eat healthy if she is more involved in the process of selecting her foods and preparing her meals. Take a trip to a local farmers market to let your teen meet the farmers who grow or raise her food. Take her to the grocery store and let her help pick the items she and you will cook during the week. Teach your teen how to read nutrition labels and allow her to pick cereals, breads, soups, snacks and other foods based on the nutritional content she sees on the labels.
Get Them Cooking
Summer is the time to grill or barbecue, so teach your child how to do both, using lean meats, seasonal fruits and vegetables and fresh fish caught locally. Teach your child how to create family meal menus using the USDA Food Pyramid, creating balanced meals, or a daily menu that finishes the day providing everyone with the correct balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Attack Those Snacks!
Avoid the advice, “Don’t eat when you’re not hungry.” That almost guarantees you’ll overeat. Add two snacks to your teens’ daily routine so they are less likely to binge when it comes to lunch and dinner. Have plenty of portable snacks they can eat when they’re out and about, and have plenty of fresh veggies, fruits and nuts around the house. Try to get your teen to eat on a regular basis, including setting a time for a morning and afternoon snack. If you “force” yourself to eat a snack even though you’re not hungry, you’ll be even less likely to be “starved” when mealtime rolls around.
Buy a Heart Rate Monitor
Seeing is believing, and a heart rate monitor lets you see if you need to pick up the pace or avoid overdoing it. Even an inexpensive heart rate monitor provides interesting stats about your workouts, including total calories burned and average heart rate.
Where to buy heart rate monitors.
Join a Sports Camp or League
If your child is interested in sports, sign him up for a tennis or soccer team with the agreement that he’ll train on off days with you to achieve his full potential. Work with the coach to set up a light weight training program. You can use dumbbells, resistance bands, calisthenics or body weight exercises, such as push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups. Create a chart, keeping track of minutes exercised, number of repetitions of push-ups or sit-ups each session to gauge improvement. Start the summer with an evaluation of dash speeds, maximum number of push-ups and sit-ups, vertical jump or other measurements and re-test every two weeks.