Did you know kids can be at risk for heart disease? It’s true. One in three kids has borderline or high cholesterol. While extra weight or obesity raises the risk, even healthy-weight kids are at risk if they have unhealthy habits.
The good news: You can help protect your child’s heart health.
Fiber is key to a heart-healthy diet because it helps lower the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Veggies, fruits, whole-wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, beans and nuts are packed with this heart-healthy nutrient, so dig in!
Physical activity is important for heart health. It is also a mood booster and helps your child sleep better! Being active as a family is fun and helps you model healthy habits for your children.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar consumption for children ages 2 to 19 to 6 teaspoons per day. Sugary beverages, such as soda, sweet tea and fruit drinks, make up nearly half of the added sugar children consume and are linked to higher rates of heart disease. Tips for a heart-healthy diet: Swap sweetened drinks for water or plain, low-fat (1 percent) or fat-free (skim) milk.
Trans fats raise bad cholesterol (LDL) while lowering the good kind (HDL). And that increases the risk of heart disease. In fact, trans fats are so bad for heart health, the FDA has mandated they be removed from the food supply over the next few years.
Too much salt can raise blood pressure and harm blood vessels. For a heart-healthy diet, choose canned foods labeled “no salt added” or “low sodium”; season food with herbs and spices instead of salt and sauces; and swap salty snacks for veggies or fruit.
Most snack foods marketed to kids are filled with sugar, salt and unhealthy fats while lacking fiber and other important nutrients for heart health. Swap the chips and cookies for nutrient-packed snacks:
- Baby carrots with hummus
- Apple slices with nut butter
- A homemade trail mix with dry cereal, nuts and dried fruit
- Plain, low-fat yogurt with sliced fruit
- A fresh orange and string cheese