Children on summer break consume more sugar, watch more television, and eat fewer vegetables than the rest of the year, says a study. “The school environment remains essential for shaping healthy eating and active living behaviours, and schools can play a leadership role in fostering a healthy transition from the school year to summer breaks,” said one of the researchers Y. Claire Wang, associate professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in the US. “We see a need for school-based obesity prevention efforts to go beyond the school day and the school year,” Wang said.
The research published online in the Journal of School Health was based on data from US children in grades one-12 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2008. The sample consisted of 6453 children and adolescents, some surveyed during the school year and others during a school break. The researchers selected three main dietary measures: total calories consumed per day, number of cups of vegetables consumed, and teaspoons of added sugar, to estimate consumption of calories.
They also compared student exercise patterns and screen time and any changes over the summer vacation. They found that in the summer, youth watched an average 20 minutes more television a day and consumed an average three ounces more sugar-sweetened beverages during summer break than during the school year. Overall, exercise was basically unchanged: students were physically active five minutes more on average than they were in school, the study found.