Raising Heart Healthy Children
One in three children is overweight or obese. Children who weigh more than they should are more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, asthma and certain types of cancer than children who are normal weight. Sadly, “adult” problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes are starting to appear in elementary school children.
By making healthy food and physical activity the center of family life, parents can protect their children from these dangers. “Parents need to set good examples by adopting a healthy diet for themselves and by exercising regularly,” says Karen David, MD, a pediatrician with Kressly Pediatrics.
Healthy foods (fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean protein, and monounsaturated fats) should be a familiar sight in the home. Parents should teach their children to eat healthy from an early age, and rarely allow sugary or processed foods.
Having regular family meals is also important. “When the family sits down at the table together, people tend to eat healthier,” says Kristin Morrow, RD, LDN, CDE, a nutrition therapist at Doylestown Hospital.
Physical activity, which includes taking a walk, riding a bike or playing soccer, should be a “fun and integral part of your lives,” says Dr. David. Children two and older should get at least 60 minutes of exercise every day (or most days). The healthy choices often aren’t the easy ones. “Support your kids,” says Ms. Morrow. “Focus on the positive changes they’ll see: more energy, better concentration in school and better performance in sports.”
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