Scary as it may seem when you read “heart disease affects everyone” it actually does mean EVERYONE, including your children!

According to the American Heart Association (AHA) children as young as 8 have, or are developing hypertension, high cholesterol and other underlying conditions of heart disease, thereby increasing their risk of a heart attack or stroke in adulthood.

In addition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six children is suffering from hypertension.

The AHA strongly recommend that serious attention is given to your child’s diet. They should be eating an abundance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean poultry and fish, nuts, legumes, nontropical vegetable oils such as olive and canola oil.

Limit the amount of saturated fats, trans fats, red meat, sodium and sugar.

Sodium

Parents should be aware that processed snacks, white bread, deli meats, canned soups, chicken nuggets and pizza can all have hidden sources of sodium. It is therefore advisable to read the label thoroughly before purchasing.

Including potassium rich foods such as yoghurt, bananas, greens, oranges and sweet potatoes can help counteract the effect of sodium and help reduce blood pressure.

Sugar

Obviously being aware of your child’s intake of sugar is paramount in keeping them healthy.  Always read the ingredients in products and be aware that sugar can be disguised in various forms i.e. syrup, nectar and ingredients with the suffix – ose such as sucrose and dextrose.

Encourage your child to replace sugary drinks with water or fruit infused water.

Fruits and Vegetables

Offer fruit and vegetables at every meal and every snack. Get creative with how they are prepared. Whilst your child may hate cauliflower steamed they may enjoy it roasted with a touch of olive oil, or perhaps green beans sautéed. 

Serving some vegetables raw as a snack in the shape of an animal or star by using cookie cutters is a fun way to tempt your child to eat.

Ask your child to choose the vegetable they would like to eat that night from the store and get them involved in preparing it. Or better still get them involved in a vegetable garden. If they have actually grown it, then the chances are that they will enjoy every mouthful!