Keeping kids well watered

Sharon Ni Chonchuir has some top tips for parents worried that their children will get dehydrated from playing in the sunshine.

SCHOOL is out for the summer and Irish children are enjoying the fine weather. But this poses problems for parents. How do they keep children well hydrated while they play in the sunshine? And what should they feed them, especially if they are inclined to eat less in the heat? Aveen Bannon is a dietitian and mother of three has both personal and professional experience of these dilemmas.

“We visit my parents’ house in France every summer,” she says.

“The kids’ appetites change when we’re there so I know all about how difficult it can be to keep kids well nourished in summer.”

Hydration is vital. “A rule of thumb is that you need about 100ml per kilo of body weight up to a litre or a litre and a half,” says Aveen.

The type of hydration is vital too. “Water should be your first port of call,” advises Aveen. “Kids drink a lot and have small stomachs.

You’ll fill them with empty calories if you give them sugary drinks or juices. A glass of juice with breakfast is fine and so is milk with meals but it should be water at all other times.”

What if they don’t like water? “My daughter didn’t so I used to dilute it with juice for flavour and then diluted it more and more until it was just water,” says Aveen. “Now I put mint or slices of lemon or lime in her water. She also prefers ice-cold water to water at room temperature.”

There is more to consider when it comes to food. Kids need at least one hour of physical activity a day and if they are more active, their appetites should respond accordingly. “Something doesn’t add up if they’re not hungry,” says Aveen. “Maybe they’ve drunk too much juice.”

It could also be that they don’t like eating at the hottest times of day. “My son doesn’t so I give him a big breakfast in the morning – a boiled egg with toast and some cereal with nuts and berries – and a substantial dinner in the evening,” says Aveen. “He snacks the rest of the time.”

We should be cautious about what we give children to eat too.

“Sunshine is a novelty for us and we go into party mode,” says Aveen. “This shouldn’t mean we go overboard with what we eat.”

So, we should occasionally substitute barbequed burgers and sausages for chicken or fish. And we should also pay attention to the quality of our snacks and treats.

“Give kids crackers with chicken or tuna or cheese with grapes or peanut butter with apple,” suggests Aveen. “Or put out a plate of chopped-up fruit and berries with nuts. I make ice pops from bananas, berries, natural yoghurt and seeds and healthy cheesecakes from mashed strawberries, cream cheese and rice cakes. It’s all about getting good quality nutrition.”

Paul Flynn, TV chef and owner of the Tannery Restaurant in Dungarvan, has two daughters aged seven and eight. When we speak, he and his family are on holidays in Majorca with his wife’s sister’s family.

“There are six kids aged under eleven so you could say the holiday is all about keeping us and them well fed and hydrated in the sun,” he laughs.

He is preparing that day’s lunch while we talk on the phone. The menu includes peaches with ham and Parmesan followed by Tuscan bread salad with roast peppers and tomatoes served with barbequed steak. “We’re surrounded by lemon groves so I’ll get the kids to make lemonade for them to drink,” he says.

Mostly, he and his wife Máire are pretty strict about what their daughters eat and drink. “The rules get broken a little on holidays where they’ll have ice cream once a day and fizzy drinks more often than they do at home,” he says. “But fruit and water are our default options for them when it’s hot really.”

Nessa Robbins is a food blogger at www.nessasfamilykitchen.com and author of ‘Apron Strings: Recipes from a Family Kitchen’. She has four children ranging in age from four to twelve.

“Summer is definitely different,” she says. “We normally have dinner in the middle of the day but during the hot weather, the children are less interested in big meals until later and since they’re at home for most of the day, they tend to snack more too.”

Because of this, she cooks meals that can be rustled up in a hurry.

“It’s all about handy meals like fajitas, burgers, sandwiches and wraps,” she says. “They also love pasta and a bowl of pasta with a fresh tomato and herb sauce can be made in minutes.”

She pays a lot of attention to hydration. “I get headaches if I don’t keep topped up with fluids so I encourage them to drink as much as possible once the sun is shining,” she says.

Mostly, this means ice-cold water but there is also homemade juice. “We start the day with a fresh fruit and vegetable juice,” says Nessa.

Her tips for snacking include homemade granola that her children constantly dip into when hungry. “My boys make ice pops with water and cordial too,” she says. “They’re a great way of getting extra hydration. If you haven’t got moulds, a disposable cup and clean lollipop stick will do the job.”

The dietician, chef and food blogger appear to be in agreement.

Make sure your children have enough to drink, mostly water. Give them a selection of healthy snacks and treats. And eat substantial meals at cooler times of day. That way, you’ll all enjoy a healthy and sun-filled summer.


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