February is American Heart Month. Now is a great time to think about your child’s cardiovascular health. Eating a well-rounded diet, exercising regularly and getting good sleep are all important habits to form as kids and carry into adulthood. By making heart-healthy choices a part of your family’s routine, everyone is more likely to sustain them.
In our first segment of this Heart-Healthy feature, included in the digital edition of our February 2022 issue, we are looking at eating habits.
A heart-healthy diet includes multiple fruits and vegetables each day, a decent amount of fiber and a limit of fried foods.
To make your child’s diet a bit more heart healthy, forego the sugar-sweetened beverages.
“A lot of kids love juice; it’s nice and sweet, but that bleeds into sodas and energy drinks,” says Sarah Clauss, an advanced imaging cardiologist at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. “Try to encourage water and low-fat milk as much as possible.”
Be creative in making healthy foods more appealing to your kids.
“Serve it in a creative way, like making smiley faces or some unique presentation, to make it more appetizing to them,” Clauss says.
Peter Gaskin, a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says that when you can make changes in diet gradually, you should always keep moderation in mind.
“There are many ways that you can eat healthy foods and have tasty healthy foods,” he says. “I’m not saying that you can’t have a steak or red meat, but don’t expect to do that three or four times a week. If you do that once a week, that’s fine.”
Maintaining a healthy diet is easier to do when everyone in the family does it together.
“Cooking and eating meals as a family, when possible, is one of the ways children can feel supported and empowered in these habits,” says Emmanuelle Favilla, an attending physician with the division of cardiology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.