5 Heart Healthy Tips for Kids
There are many nutrients that support healthy development in children. A particularly important topic is heart health to encourage growth and long-term wellness. Jennifer Brunelli, Carolina Panthers' sports nutritionist offers these tips to help support heart health for children.
1. Fats are necessary.
Fats are needed for growth and development and should not be restricted in children under 2 years of age. Choose healthy unsaturated fats include olive and canola oils, avocados, nuts, and salmon while avoiding saturated fat and trans fats from deep fried foods such as French fries or doughnuts, baked goods including cookies, cakes, crackers, pies, muffins, and margarine or shortening.
2. Get your Omega 3's.
Omega-3 fatty acids are fats that the body needs to carry out regular body functions. Omega-3 fats can help maintain healthy blood pressure and triglyceride levels and may help manage your risk of heart disease as part of a healthy diet and exercise. Fatty fish including salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are rich sources. Your child should eat two to three servings of fish each week or take a daily supplement containing the omega-3s DHA and EPA.
3. Choloestrol 101.
Cholesterol should not be restricted in children under 2 years of age since it is necessary for growth and development. In children over age 2, cholesterol should be limited to 300 milligrams. Foods containing high amounts of cholesterol include egg yolks, milk, cheese, dairy products, meats, poultry, and shellfish. Small amounts of these foods are fine, but consider limiting the quantities.
4. Just a little salt, please.
Sodium, or salt, is a necessary compound for many of the body's functions but should be less than 2,300 milligrams each day if you have healthy blood pressure. Instead of salting foods try using different herbs, such as garlic, rosemary, thyme, or red pepper flakes, to add flavor!
5. Get your fiber.
Fiber is a food component that the body cannot digest or absorb. Diets high in soluble fiber can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. You will find fiber in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. You should be aiming for at least half of your child's grains to be whole grains.
And remember, the heart is a muscle. Limit screen time and get kids moving! Ideally they would be physically active for at least 60 minutes daily. Make it fun for the whole family and go out to play with them.
Jennifer Brunelli is the owner of Sports RDpro, a Charlotte-based sports nutrition, weight management, and corporate wellness practice.