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Family Fun
Family Fun

Four ways to slow down and let summer linger

Bananarama was right: Summer is cruel.

Every year, hammocks and frothy drinks and beach reading mock us as we trudge, sweatily, to our jobs and errands and regularly scheduled activities — which, despite what childhood taught us, don't go on a three-month hiatus.

Maybe this year can be different.

Maybe, in spite of adulthood, we can have a lazy summer. Not do-nothing lazy, mind you. (Your boss might frown upon you skipping town until Labor Day, and your kids are still going to want to, you know, eat.)

But certainly do-less lazy.

Here are four ideas for freeing up a few hours a week to do a whole lot of nothing during the summer — and maybe beyond. No less than Henry David Thoreau, after all, advised accordingly:

"One must maintain a little bittle of summer, even in the middle of winter."

(And doesn't he seem a better muse than Bananarama?)

Stop cooking

You can turn down the heat without sacrificing nutrition and variety, says registered dietitian Ruth Frechman, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

"When you're planning a summer meal — even if it's a smoothie — picture yourself filling a plate," Frechman says. "You want a little protein, a little carbs and half the plate filled with fruits and vegetables. Then you fill in the blanks with what you like to eat."

A Greek yogurt-based smoothie with frozen fruits and veggies (spinach, kale, avocado) and some oatmeal or bran does the trick. Frechman suggests tossing in fresh ginger, cinnamon or unsweetened cocoa for extra antioxidant power.

Prefer not to drink your dinner?

"Bring back the sandwich," she says. "Peanut butter and banana on whole grain bread. Tuna with avocado and sliced cucumbers. You can throw anything you want on a sandwich. Don't limit yourself to a piece of cheese and some meat."

Some of her favorite sides? Sliced apples with peanut butter. Greek yogurt with cucumbers and a drizzle of olive oil. Salt-free cottage cheese with frozen pineapple mixed in. Hummus with baby carrots. Cheese and whole-grain crackers.

Ignore your smartphone

"Many people rationalize screen time as productivity, when in reality much of it is ego-stroking," says health psychologist Brian Luke Seaward, author of "Managing Stress" (Jones and Bartlett). "People feel the need to be needed, and text messages and emails fill this need all too easily. People realize the rudeness factor and will apologize — and then go right on as if the president is calling or texting."

Think of summer as your reset button.

"We need to learn to make healthy boundaries the rule, not the exception, when using technology," says Seaward. "To live without it is not advised, but healthy boundaries are a necessity. Consider having tech-free zones in the house. No cellphones in the kitchen, especially during dinner. No smartphones in the bedroom. And leave technology behind when stepping into nature. Leave it in the car."

Seaward also recommends giving your devices a bedtime.

"The light display screens directly aimed into the eyes, unlike an overhead light, greatly decrease melatonin production in the evening hours," he says. "Melatonin is the sleep hormone and begins to increase as light decreases. Not using screen technology after 8 p.m. is highly advised for a good night's sleep."

Skip the gym

Climate-controlled treadmill trekking is fine when the weather is nasty outside.

But you can turn the outdoors into your gym and give yourself credit for more than the conventional activities like jogging, biking and hiking.

For a 150-pound adult, an hour of gardening burns about 275 calories, according to online calorie-counter caloriesperhour.com. A 25-minute moderate jog/walk with your pet will burn about 115 calories. Mowing your lawn with a push-mower for a half-hour burns 200 calories.

A half-hour game of beach volleyball will use up 225 calories. And an hour of leisure swimming (not laps) burns about 400 calories— even more, we're guessing, if you go down the twisty slide a few times.

Best of all, you won't waste time commuting to and from a gym. (Burn a few more calories patting yourself on the back.)

Swear off TV

You've probably heard: We watch too much television.

"I think if people were monitored and then told how much screen time they spend, they would be astonished," says Seaward.

American adults average 2.75 hours of television per day, according to the 2012 American Time Usage Survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many kids watch even more.

"On any given day in the United States, 64 percent of babies between 1 and 2 are watching screen media for over two hours a day," says Susan Linn, director of the nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (commercialfreechildhood.org). "By the time they're preschoolers they average as much as 4.3 to 4.6 hours a day. Between 8 and 18, on any given day, children are on average consuming a little more than seven hours a day of screen media."

"It's too prevalent," says Linn. "It's creating a generation of people who are either bored or anxious unless they're in front of a screen. It doesn't bode well for society."

Give your TV a rest (at least until the good shows return in the fall).

Try swapping an hour of tube-time with hammock-time.

Frothy drinks optional.

hstevens@tribune.com

Twitter @heidistevens13

Copyright © 2015, CT Now
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