5 Heart-Healthy Habits for Kids

By Julie Vargo, Editorial Contributor

When it comes to teaching children the heart-healthy lifestyle behaviors they will need as adults, the homeschooling can’t start soon enough.

“Establishing good habits early is easier than changing bad habits later,” says Dr. Susan E. DesJardins, pediatric cardiologist with The Heart Center at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. “Children learn best from watching family members live the principles of good health daily.”

Here are five healthy habits to incorporate in your home.

  • Exchange Rate: Control portion size rather than specific foods. Healthy food swaps can fill up tummies while reducing empty calories. Balance broth-based soups, raw vegetables and fat-free ranch dressing with small amounts of tasty family favorites that are not considered healthy.
  • Cut Chaos: Put systems in place to streamline your family’s eating habits and daily lives. This helps set lifelong expectations children can follow. Some examples: Use the weekend to meal prep. Try slow cooker or pressure cooker recipes. Grocery shop with a premade list.
  • Get Physical: Sedentary children often grow into sedentary adults. Break the cycle by encouraging daily physical activity to boost endurance and energize the heart, brain and immune systems.
  • You Are What You Eat: Be mindful of what goes into your child’s body. Processed foods loaded with sodium, sugars and saturated fats contribute to high blood pressure and increased cholesterol levels, upping the odds of future heart attack and stroke.
  • Sleep It Off: Sleep helps the brain repair itself, process memories and rejuvenate. In general, toddlers need about 12 hours of sleep a night while teenagers require 8-9. Establish regular bedtimes and avoid disrupted sleep from lights, noises and electronics.
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