There’s a lot that parents do with their child’s future health in mind. The impact may not be instantaneous, but most understand that establishing habits such as eating a well-balanced diet and exercising while children are young will continue to reap positive rewards far into the future. Heart disease is currently the leading cause of death in both American men and women, and teaching healthy habits during youth is key to combating such statistics. Still, it can sometimes seem difficult to find the most effective ways to put kids on the right track. Here are a few ideas that can help you get started:
Limit Screen Time to Promote Activity
Between video games, smart phones, tablets and television, children are now spending an estimated seven hours each day in front of a screen. In fact, the amount of screen time children are participating in has become so problematic that the American Heart Association recently issued a warning and recommendation to limit kids to no more than two hours per day. Not only has excessive screen time been linked to childhood obesity, it is also associated with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a much stronger likelihood for sedentary behavior as an adult.
Have Healthy Family Dinners
A healthy diet is undoubtedly key to maintaining heart health. Experts advise to focus on lean meats, vegetables and whole grains, while limiting fatty or fried foods, sugar, and sodium. In addition to concentrating on the appropriate types of foods, parents should also pay special attention to when and how meals are consumed. Family dinners are a great chance to catch up with kids and hear about their day, but they also establish some healthy parameters around meals, helping children avoid snacking and setting the expectation for a healthy dinner each day.
Teach Children to Read Nutrition Labels
It is one thing to prepare healthy meals and snacks for kids but it is another to teach them these skills for themselves. By taking children grocery shopping, involving them in meal preparation, and teaching them how to interpret nutrition labels, parents can help ensure that their kids will continue healthy eating habits even after they have left home.
Focus on Physical Activity Outside of Exercise
Exercise is obviously a critical component of health. However, it can easily be viewed as a chore or job that has to be done. While it is certainly a good idea to model healthy habits such as going for run or hitting the gym, it is also wise to find ways to make physical fitness fun and a part of the normal routine. Instead of going to a movie on the weekend, go outdoors for a hike or to play ball. Rather than simply making the bed or folding laundry, assign chores such as cutting the grass or raking leaves. Kids will be less likely to view these activities as exercise, but they will still reap the rewards of being physically active.
To learn more about healthy habits and other steps you can take to protect your child’s cardiovascular health, speak with your physician. If your child is 16 years or older, the cardiologists at CIS can also help with heart health screenings and more.