February is American Heart Month. And it’s a perfect time to talk about how we can start our children with heart-healthy habits from the get-go. A heart healthy family has a lifestyle that is focused on eating right, regular exercise, and balancing work and play. As moms, we have put together several posts that talk about simple ways you can encourage your family to have a healthy heart.
Links below to all 10 tips in the series ⬇
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Day 1: Reduce Added Sugar in your family’s diet
Added sugars contribute additional unneeded calories to our diet and put us at more risk of heart disease.
From Harvard Medical School —
Over the course of the 15-year study on added sugar and heart disease, participants who took in 25% or more of their daily calories as sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those whose diets included less than 10% added sugar. Overall, the odds of dying from heart disease rose in tandem with the percentage of sugar in the diet—and that was true regardless of a person’s age, sex, physical activity level, and body-mass index (a measure of weight).
One place to start is with what your family drinks. Here’s our handy guide to reducing added sugar in beverages.
Day 2: Find More Outdoor Play Options
Maintaining a healthy weight through regular physical activity is a huge part of a healthy heart. We wrote about easy outdoor play ideas for summer here. But sometimes it’s more challenging in the winter.
How about sledding? Snow angels? And more. Here’s a bunch of winter play ideas.
Day 3: Eat More (Yummy) Oats
This tip is actually easier than you might think. It’s not about eating sticky, tasteless oatmeal for breakfast. Instead, we’re talking fun oatmeal! Yummy oatmeal!
Oats are a whole grain. It has a special fiber called beta-glucan that reduces cholesterol. And the FDA says that oats may prevent heart disease if you also include an overall diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
So eat up! But here’s a fun way — yummy overnight oats. It’s super easy and there are many yummy combinations with nuts and fruits, and other toppings. Grab and go!
Day 4: Set a Bedtime Routine
With all the electronic devices in our homes, it can be hard to wind down for bedtime. But studies show that being able to turn down the lights, relax, and have a regular sleep schedule is crucial to reducing our stress and having good health.
At GoRedForWomen.org, Dr. Gina Lundberg, clinical director of Emory Women’s Heart Center, says —
People who are sleep deprived have slower metabolism and more difficulty losing weight. They also have the effect of not wanting to exercise or participate in other healthy habits.
One of the winding-down routines you can implement is reading at bedtime. It also promotes literacy and child-parent bonding. Here’s some fun reading ideas for what to read.
Day 5: Eat More Fruits and Veggies
If your family is not used to eating more fruits and veggies, this can seem difficult. In fact, it is proven that our brains re-wire depending on eating habits.
For example, if your family is used to eating a lot of high-calorie, processed foods that don’t include fruits and veggies, the brain will adjust to that “unhealthy addiction.” However, the reverse is also true. The more you add fruits and veggies, and slowly phase out the bad stuff, the more your brain re-trains to a healthy addiction of craving fruits and veggies.
One of the simple ways to start is to display fruits on beautiful platters and dishes at the kitchen table and counters — even all day long. Here’s some tips and ideas —
Day 6: Plan a Family Garden
When your children and family get involved in growing your own food, there’s a natural interest that develops in eating more fruits and veggies.
You can get even little 2 and 4 year olds interested in a garden! Teenagers can take upon themselves more planning. It really can also be a fun adventure when you try out rare and diverse seeds. There’s even a Boy Scout merit badge for gardening.
Here’s tips for planning a family garden —
Day 7: Stay Active, Even Indoors
Whether it’s because of bad weather or allergies, or maybe because we’re tied to our screens, there’s no excuse to stay active — for young and old. Staying active each day strengthens our heart, keeps obesity at bay, and sets good daily habits of movement that benefit our bodies and minds.
For children, there’s loads of fun, active things to do. In our article “Keep Moving, Indoor Active Play Ideas,” we give you several EASY ways to keep your kids occupied indoors.
Day 8: Have a regular exercise routine
For busy families, it’s tough enough to get regular exercise. But it’s even more difficult if you don’t have a regular routine or habit of it. Parents can often set the example here — not only with showing that it’s important to get regular exercise and being an example, but also to make it a family priority early on to do family activities that are active.
Getting regular exercise doesn’t have to take hours a day. There are simple things you can do that make a huge impact, like jump rope. Here’s our 3 Steps to An Easy Jump Rope Workout to get you started.
Day 9: Cook more with your kids
Studies show that the more children are in the kitchen making their own food, the more they have a tendency to think about what they are eating. The success of kids in the kitchen often depends on parents helping them learn how to cook and make healthy, balanced food choices. For example, you can ask your children “what fruit or veggie would add another color to that plate?”
Being the kitchen making healthy food should also be fun. We like this idea — making fruit leather. It’s easy, fun, and the fruit leather is so yummy!
Day 10: Stop smoking (and never start)
Most people don’t know that smoking also puts you at risk for heart disease. For parents, if you smoke, the Allen Carr method is a great resource for quitting for good.
But it also matters how you talk to your children about never starting in the first place. Our article on how to talk to your children about not smoking has several simple steps and tips to help you.