French Summer really coincides with the French school calendar: that is from the first week of July to the third week of August. My friends are therefore shocked to read that our children are already off school and won't go back until after Labor Day. (That's about 12 weeks of time-off! How could it possibly be manageable for working parents who, if lucky, get 4 weeks off? The American dilemna!)
Although French Summers are "shorter" than American ones, you would not believe so if you were to read French women's magazines that get women ready for their beach vacation as soon as Spring shows up! As Summer gets closer, most magazines start highlighting the "dangers" of Summer time when it comes to keeping a healthy diet. Next to the obviously beneficial seasonal fruits and salads, lay the traditional apéritifs (read: alcohol, chips, and other munchies), daily icecreams, gauffre ou crêpes au Nutella sur la plage, in addition to regular BBQs or outings to restaurants (pizzeria being a favorite!).
I had never thought about it as a "danger" to our children's diet until one of my husband's cousin related how sending her children off to spend time with their relatives (grand-parents, great aunt, etc.) for an extended period of time became an issue one Summer. Her children were to spend two weeks with their grand-parents in the South of France, then another week with a great-aunt and then another week with other relatives. Grand-parents wanting to indulge on their grand-children started feeding them icecream or waffle or crêpes everyday in addition to taking them out for a pizza or fast-food. Same with the other sets of relatives. As she related it, "it would not kill my children to eat that diet; it would not have affected their diet too much if it had happened for one week or two. The problem was that it lasted for 4 weeks. When I got them back, even though they got some excercise during their vacation, they had put on weight!" She felt bad but the following year she explained to her relatives, that they would have to watch what they feed her children because the cumulative effect was an issue.
Our children just left for France last Wednesday! We are lucky that they are able to spend time with their grand-parents and aunts/uncles in France before my husband and I go over and spend some time off with them (they will go to camps in the US when we return.) Do I worry about their diet? No. Do I worry about the cumulative effect? Hmmm....
As I keep saying, you and your children can have everything as long as it is with moderation (in size and frequency!).. Bon Appetit!