School is out for the summer and while the warm weather is more conducive to outdoor exercise, many parents find that their children actually gain weight during June, July and August.

Parents can encourage kids to be active in summer to prevent weight gain. (Bec Parsons, ThinkStock)

Researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health found that regardless of family income, children on summer break eat more sugar, watch more television and take in fewer vegetables than the rest of the year.

"With the summer comes a lot more variety in different foods to eat outside the home," said Peggy Policastro, Rutgers University nutrition specialist. "In the winter, we tend to eat more at home, so if someone keeps a healthy household with good nutrition, it's easier to follow through. But, the summer is full of parties, barbecues, ice cream and getting together with friends. So, children are exposed to more high calorie, low nutrient dense items."

Many parents work during the day, leaving children inside in front of their televisions, computers and phones, so there is less exercise.

"Even though the summer provides great opportunity for exercise, it's not as structured as it is during the school year when they're involved in in-school activities, after-school activities and sports," Policastro said. "There is a lot of time during the summer when children are hanging around and that often consists of sedentary activities."

Here are some steps parents can take to combat weight gain in their children during the summer:

  • Keep healthy snacks in the pantry;
  • Encourage exercise whenever possible; and
  • Be active with your children, lead by example.

"Parents control what is being brought into the house and children control how much they eat of it. So, if parents don't bring in high-calorie, low nutrient foods, it won't be there for the kids to eat," Policastro said. "It's fine to have ice cream, but make it a social event and go with the entire family to get ice cream, but don't keep it in the house."