Easy tips for helping your kids stay heart healthy

Unhealthy eating has taken its toll on Canada's youth. These tips can help you keep your children healthy to avoid the complications of obesity.

Easy tips for helping your kids stay heart healthy

Nearly 30 percent of Canadian kids are overweight. Studies have shown that the typical Canadian diet consists of too much processed foods such as bread or macaroni which can be high in fat, carbohydrates, sugar and sodium; diets also include too little fresh fruits, vegetables and low fat meats such as chicken. Here are some tips for helping kids to eat right and get the exercise they need.

Why be heart healthy?

Excess weight puts a strain on the heart. Foods high in fat, sugar and carbohydrates directly contribute to weight gain. Also, high sodium foods can increase blood pressure, another factor that can weaken a heart.

Eating right

Go through your kitchen cabinets and your freezer. What's in there? You have probably stocked up on potato chips, ice cream and sugary cereal. Start by balancing out your stocks of food with things like applesauce and frozen vegetables.

Start early with children by setting a pattern for balancing out "fun" eating with "healthy" eating. Limit the amount of unhealthy food you have available at home.

Regular meals are important. Try to build in time for breakfast. It's acceptable to use protein shakes if time is very short. In the evening, try to have an "eating simply" family dinner. At the store, become a label reader. Aim to buy low fat, low sugar, and fresh foods.

Eating simply

Healthy does not have to be complicated. A piece of grilled chicken and some kid-friendly vegetables such as corn is a beginning. These days, simple, healthy precooked choices are available in the freezer aisle.

Most frozen vegetables are frozen shortly after they are picked and are often fresher than fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle. As an alternative, find a genuine farmers market offering fresh produce.

Exercise

Aerobic exercise not only improves heart health by strengthening the heart muscle, but it also burns fat. Kids should get at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise in three-to-five times a week.

The family that exercises together is healthier. Get out on your bike or take kids to the zoo or an aquarium and walk around for an hour or two. If they love soccer, get them involved in a team.

Set up a television, computer or game budget that limits watching or playing time. Work out a system where kids can buy more time if they meet exercise or eating goals. Psychologists have shown that reward is a more effective tool than punishment for bringing about change. Better yet, buy into video games that involve movement.

By beginning early, you can begin to guide your children towards better heart health. Become a role model and help steer your kids towards heart health.

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