Be a Role Model

Kids and Heart Disease: The Heart of the Matter

Smart Ideas to Make Healthy Habits Fun!

Play a game of tag with your children after dinner

  • Cook healthy meals together
  • Create a rainbow shopping list to find colorful fruits and vegetables
  • Go on a walking scavenger hunt through the neighborhood
  • Help your children grow their own vegetable garden

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

Make Heart-Healthy Living a Family Affair

Parents set the stage for children’s health behaviors. Don’t expect your children to limit TV or computer time, eat right or get regular physical activity if you aren’t doing the same.

Whether your family members are trying to manage high cholesterol or put a stop to excess weight gain, the good news is that the first line of defense against both - adopting a heart-healthy diet and increasing physical activity - is under your control!

A heart-healthy eating plan and regular physical activity should be part of your family's routine. In fact, it is just as important for your children as it is for you to keep your cholesterol levels and BMI score in a healthy range. As a parent, you should set an example for your children by eating nutritious foods and engaging in regular physical fitness. If you regularly eat high fat and high sugar foods or spend too much time in front of the T.V., your children probably will too. Because children form "likes and dislikes" when they are young, that is the time to introduce and encourage heart healthy behaviors.

Tips For Families

Eat Right
Modified from USDA's MyPyramid.gov

  1. Make half your grains whole. Choose whole-grain foods, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, and low fat popcorn, more often.
  2. Vary your veggies. Go dark green and orange with your  vegetables—eat spinach, broccoli, carrots, and sweet potatoes.
  3. Focus on fruits. Eat them at meals, and at snack time, too. Choose fresh, frozen, canned, or dried, and go easy on the fruit juice and cider, which are typically high in sugar, and can substantially raise triglycerides. Avoid large amounts of flavored water and sports drinks which have high sugar content and can add calories and raise triglycerides, as well.
  4. Get your calcium-rich foods. To build strong bones serve  low fat and fat-free milk and other milk products several times a day. 
  5. Go lean with protein. Eat lean or low fat meat, chicken, turkey, and fish. Also, change your tune with more dry beans and peas.  Add chick peas, nuts, or seeds to a salad; pinto beans to a burrito; or kidney
    beans to soup.
  6. Use healthy oils. Choose healthy fats; poly- and mono- unsaturated are best. These can be found in fish, nuts, and liquid oils such as corn, soybean, canola, and olive oil.  
  7. Don't sugarcoat it. Choose healthy fats; poly- and mono- unsaturated are best. These can be found in fish, nuts, and liquid oils such as corn, soybean, canola, and olive oil.
  8. Control your portions. Divide your dinner plate in 4 quarters. Two quarters should be fruits and/or vegetables, one quarter lean protein and one quarter carbohydrate (pasta, rice, or potato). Try switching to a smaller plate.

Exercise

  1. Set a good example. Be active and get your family to join you.  Have fun together. Play with the kids or pets. Go for a walk, tumble in the leaves, or play catch.
  2. Take the President's Challenge as a family. Track your  individual physical activities together and earn awards for active lifestyles at www.presidentschallenge.org.
  3. Establish a routine. Set aside time each day as activity time—walk, jog, skate, cycle, or swim.  Adults need at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week; children 60 minutes everyday or most days. 
  4. Have an activity party. Make the next birthday party centered on physical activity.  Try backyard Olympics, or relay races. Have a bowling or skating party.
  5. Set up a home gym. Use household items, such as canned foods, as weights.  Stairs can substitute for stair machines.
  6. Move it! Instead of sitting through TV commercials, get up and move. When you talk on the phone, lift weights or walk around.   Remember to limit TV watching and computer time.
  7. Give activity gifts. Give gifts that encourage physical activity—active games or sporting equipment.

Above Reprinted from USDA's MyPyramid.gov

Additional resources for parents can be found through the American Heart Association:
AHA's "How to Help Your Kids"