People need to eat a healthy diet. This is true for everyone, including kids, adults and those with congenital heart disease. Children who consume excess calories are at risk for becoming overweight or obese. Being overweight is associated with diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions.
Teaching your children to eat healthy promotes good habits that can last a lifetime. A diet rich in a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meats helps kids maintain a healthy weight and stable metabolism. Healthy foods can also be tasty foods.
Here are a few ideas to help kids eat a heart-healthy diet.
Fresh Is Best
Eating fresh vegetables and fruits is essential to maintaining a healthy weight. At each meal, serve kids a fruit or vegetable. Rather than turning to junk food for snacks, encourage your children to munch on carrots, apples, grapes, celery or another healthy choice. Instead of drinks with lots of sugar such as juice or soda, offer kids water or milk.
Read the Labels
Limit your children’s consumption of unhealthy fats, sodium and sugar. Compare labels on various foods and find a healthy option that will fit your child’s preferences. Also, pay attention to serving sizes on the labels. Not following serving size directions can lead to eating excess calories. Over time, this overeating will lead to weight gain.
Families who eat together at home tend to have healthier diets than those who eat out often. Try to eat one meal together at home. When you cook at home, you control the ingredients. Get your kids involved in the kitchen. Most kids like to cook. Teach your kids basic cooking skills and let them experiment in the kitchen.
Healthy eating and getting enough exercise are central to active, happy kids. Encourage kids to play outside. Take walks or ride bikes together. If your child likes sports, let them explore different activities.
Most kids with heart disease can participate in a sport. Check with your pediatrician for advice on exercising. Your child may need a physical to get clearance for some activities.
Kids understand that it’s important to eat right, but they may not understand the significance of an unhealthy diet. Talk to them in terms they can understand. Explain how eating well can help them feel good and stay active. Relate how eating a healthy diet can help them in school or in any other activity they enjoy. If your kids go to the grocery store with you, let them choose healthy and tasty foods.