Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean February is focused any less on “hearts.” As American Heart Month, February is a great chance for families to spend some time looking at their overall heart health.
“Just as parents want their children to lead a healthy lifestyle, kids want the same for their parents. With heart disease continuing to be a major cause of death in both men and women, it is important for adults to set a healthy example for their families,” says Joseph Ross, MD, pediatric cardiologist at Dayton Children’s Hospital “It is never too early to start implementing healthy habits into your families’ lifestyle. By teaching your children these habits now, you are helping to lead a life that will support a healthy heart!”
In order to stay in the spirit of the month of hearts, try incorporating a few of these simple habits into your child’s daily routine to encourage heart health for years to come.
1. Eat the rainbow. Make sure your child is getting all of the nutrients they need by “coloring” their plate with servings of bright fruits and green veggies. This will ensure that they get a well-rounded, nutritious diet as well as keep their meals fun and bright!
2. Get the family up and moving. Make physical activity part of your family’s lifestyle by planning weekly time together. Consider going swimming, taking bike rides, gardening, or even just taking a walk around the block or on nature trails!
3. Limit screen time to two hours a day. Excessive time in front of the TV or computer can lead to several health problems as well as excessive snacking. A sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet puts your child at risk for high cholesterol and obesity.
4. Give healthy rewards. Instead of rewarding your child with TV or sweets, try a healthier incentive such as getting a new book or art supplies, choosing a board game for the family, having friends over to play, or a family activity such as bike riding.
5. Hold a chore challenge. Make doing chores around the house a fun competition and physical activity for your kids by placing sticky notes with chores on them around the house they can collect. Whoever collects the most stickies can win a healthy reward from above! Make sure to play some music and set a time limit as well.
6. Drop liquid calories. Keep your household free of sugar-sweetened beverages that have zero nutritional benefits for your kid’s diet such as soda and sweetened juices. Replace these options with water, low-fat milk, and 100 percent fruit juice.
7. Find an activity they love. Encourage your child to try out different activities until they find one they really enjoy and look forward to! Not all children like sports, so have them try something different such as yoga, dance, cycling, jumping rope, horseback riding, or swimming.
8. Make dinner time a family time. Have your menu planned for the week and hold sit-down dinners to get some quality time and ensure that your child is eating a healthy meal. For extra fun, have your child get involved in cooking and planning meals too.
9. Maintain a healthy weight. Check in with your pediatrician to make sure that your child’s BMI is healthy. At the same time, make sure you are staying positive and building your child’s confidence!
10. Be a great role model. There’s no one out there your child looks up to and wants to be like more than you! Set an example by keeping healthy eating and exercise a central part of your lifestyle.
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