Heart Healthy from the Start

By Sara Lucero

When it comes to kids, heart health is rarely the topic of conversation. We hear about childhood obesity, rising rates of diabetes and even cancer, but teaching kids to be heart healthy from the start doesn’t often make the splashy headlines.

As with anything else, teaching kids heart healthy habits from the beginning can help prevent health issues down the road. Set your kids up for a healthy heart long into the future with tips like these:

  • Serve plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins – Get kids involved with finding foods, recipes and menu choices that make it fun to eat well. Check out MyPlate for ideas that the whole family can enjoy at home and HealthyDiningFinder for the best choices at restaurants.
  • Sneak in fish several times per week – The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings per week – preferably fish that are rich in heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon and herring.
  • Read food labels with your kids – As part of your shopping routine, point out the good-for-you numbers like fiber and the numbers that are best to limit such as sugar, sodium and saturated fat
  • Connect heart-healthy choices to everyday life – Which foods make their heart happy? Which foods give them the energy they need to run faster and farther? Share with them your own motivations for keeping your heart healthy, such as more energy to play with them.
  • Make it a family lifestyle – Just like every other habit you’re trying to instill in your kids, a heart healthy diet and lifestyle requires consistency and a good example. Eating well at home and when dining out at restaurants, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are all important parts of the equation. Show them how it’s done!

How do you guide your kids to be heart healthy from the start? What tips do you follow to make a healthy lifestyle your family’s lifestyle?

During Heart Health Month in February and throughout the year, opt for healthier choices for the whole family at restaurants. These dietitian-recommended choices are loaded with heart healthy ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, fish and whole grains.