You and your children deserve a healthy, happy heart and here are some easy, simple ways of keeping your heart running good, just like keeping a car in good condition. People think that heart disease starts later in life when in fact it can start in childhood. And equally important, kids will develop a healthy heart with parents that are good heart health role models.
We know that treating high blood pressure and high cholesterol early in childhood can protect at-risk children from future heart disease. A healthy diet, daily exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight are key to maintaining a healthy heart. This is what we call a heart healthy lifestyle. Here are some simple tips for parents, children and teens.
1. Help kids to eat for a healthy heart, starting at a young age.
It includes: lean meats, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and whole grains. The Canada Food Guide is a good resource to follow forgetting the nutrients and calories they need as well as the serving sizes and amounts for each food category.
- scheduling food at a certain time of the day
- putting the focus on food so not having computer or TV on
- not force feeding and instead letting them decide how much they can eat at a meal
- leading by example with kids seeing you trying new foods
What to Feed Your Children?
Offer whole fruit and vegetables more often than juice as they have more fiber (Government of Canada recommendations):
- Offer 500 mL (2 cups) of milk or fortified soy beverage every day. This will help kids meet their calcium and vitamin D needs and build strong bones.
- Offer nutritious foods even if they have a higher fat content. Give children a variety of nutritious foods, including some choices that contain fat (like milk, peanut butter, and avocado).
- Limit foods and drinks high in calories, fat, sugar, or salt, like cookies, chips, and soft drinks.
- Drink water. Encourage your children to drink water to quench their thirst and replenish body fluids.
Also know how to read a nutritional label. You will often see written on the label, “No Cholesterol”. Only saturated fats contain cholesterol such as meat, egg yolks and dairy products (better to have 2%, not whole milk etc.). This low density cholesterol (LDL) is the bad cholesterol and can lead to the risk of heart disease. The higher density cholesterol (unsaturated fats, HDL) is better. Unsaturated fats are found in nuts, avocados and oils like olive and canola.
Limit processed foods which are high in trans fats that can increase the bad cholesterol e.g. crackers, donuts, cakes etc.
Add fiber rich foods – Soluble fiber binds to LDL cholesterol and helps flush it out of the body. It is good to add oats, beans and lentils to your kids’ diets to help increase their fiber levels.
2.Exercise –Anything that gets the heart rate up is good for the heart! Children should exercise at least 60 minutes a day. Activities can include: running, swimming, kicking a soccer ball, or jump rope. When the weather is bad outside, kids can do jumping jacks, sit-ups, push-ups, or workout videos. Of course playtime is exercise too.
3. Watching TV/Computer time – Limit screen time to no more than 2 hours a day.
4. Rest/relaxation – Children naturally know when to go within and be quiet with a project, art work etc. Toddlers also need a scheduled nap time and then are ready to play again.
5. Balance work with play –We can teach our children to manage stress of daily life with peace and calm by doing deep breathing, yoga and meditation so just quiet time with no demands or expectations. Beathing techniques will help children to prevent the impact of stressful events in their life.