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Maintaining good health requires sound nutrition and healthy eating habits. While adults are often advised to follow a heart-healthy diet, it is a good choice for children as well. Involving your entire family in a healthy diet and lifestyle helps ensure success for the entire family. Below are some tips for heart-healthy habits for your children:

  • Reduce intake of processed meats – Meats like hot dogs, salami, and deli meats are high in sodium and preservatives, like nitrates. Reduce these processed meats by replacing with leftover meats from meal time, cheese sticks and peanut or other nut butters. This helps make certain the child receives a more heart-healthy, protein-rich food.
  • Offer a fruit and vegetable for snack – According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) MyPlate recommendations, children need one to two cups of fruits per day and one to three cups of vegetables per day, depending on age and gender. For some kids, this may seem impossible. Offering a fruit and vegetable at snack time helps to sneak in those servings as well as increase exposure to fruits and vegetables. The more times your children are exposed to fruits and vegetables, the more likely they will try them and start to enjoy them, which is great for their heart health!
  • Get active as a family – For children and adolescents, the USDA recommends 60 minutes of physical activity a day. This can be spread throughout the day in short bursts. As a family, go for a walk in the evenings, walk the dog, go to the park or visit a pool. Whatever your children enjoy doing for physical activity, encourage the activity, and get active with them as well.
  • Work to eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages – Beverages like soda, sweet tea, sports drinks, fruit-flavored drinks and juices are all high in sugars. For kids, offer reduced-fat milk products or water more often than you offer these sugar-sweetened beverages. Reducing added sugars is better for lessening heart-disease risk.

For More Information

Ultimately, following a heart-healthy diet as an entire family is beneficial for all. For additional information

  • Talk to your pediatrician
  • Make an appointment with a Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare registered dietitian by calling 414-527-5000 (for metro Milwaukee) or 262-687-6345 (in Racine).
  • Visit https://www.choosemyplate.gov/ 

Happy American Heart Month!

Courtney Meidenbauer is a registered dietitian for Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, part of Ascension.

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