Do Our Kids Have Ideal Heart Health? Probably Not.

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Here’s the link to this morning’s segment I did on Real Milwaukee on Fox 6 about getting kids to eat healthier. And up there πŸ‘† is a picture of what an ideal day looks like food-wise.

The American Heart Association released a pretty shocking statement last week (I’m paraphrasing here)… Our kids aren’t super healthy. (And, let’s be honest, we take better care of them than we do of us, so if they’re not super healthy, we’re probably not doing so hot either.)

The majority of the time, our kids are born with healthy hearts. But somewhere along the way, we’ve driven this off the road. And into a ditch. And off a cliff. Into piranha-infested water. Let me explain. The AHA used 7 criteria to determine ideal heart health for kids ages 2-19….

  1. Not smoking
  2. Having a healthy weight (between 10-27% of kids are obese)
  3. Getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day
  4. Eating a healthy diet
  5. Healthy blood pressure levels
  6. Healthy blood sugar levels
  7. Healthy cholesterol levels

Care to take a guess as to what percentage of kids meet all of these criteria? If you guessed 20%, then GREAT JOB!!! No. Just kidding. You were way off.

Less than one. LESS. THAN. ONE. PERCENT.

Care to guess which category we did the worst in? Eating a healthy diet. (Followed by lack of exercise.) The majority of the calories in our kids’ diets (and probably ours too) are coming from sugar; whether it’s in things disguised as ‘healthy’ like yogurt, cereal and protein bars; or things we already know aren’t great for us like desserts and sugary drinks, we’re getting way too much of that shit. We’re not eating enough real food. We’re eating a lot of ‘food-like products’, which do a great job at keeping us alive, but not a great job at keeping us healthy.

As parents, it’s our job to teach our kids how to use a fork, how to tie their shoes and how to wipe their own ass. If we also teach them how to eat a healthy diet and how to enjoy exercise, I guarantee it won’t be such a pain in the ass for them eat a healthy diet and exercise when they’re our age. Promise.

So to get you started, instead of focusing on things we CAN’T have or need to take OUT of our diets, lets focus on adding more of the good stuff in.  If you add enough of the good stuff, it’ll eventually start to crowd out some of the not-so-great stuff (still leaving us room for that occasional piece of ice cream cake).

I like the Harvard School of Public Health’s Healthy Plate as a reference for what a healthy diet looks like (for kids and adults). I’ve included it below and added some colorful commentary of my own. Enjoy!

Along with filling half of our plate with colorful vegetables and fruits, split the other half between whole grains and healthy protein:

Veggies

  • The more veggies – and the greater the variety – the better.
  • Potatoes, French fries, pizza and corn don’t count as vegetables, but thanks anyway, Congress. Corn is a super-starchy veggie, AT BEST. If you google it, you can find corn categorized as everything from a fruit to a veggie to a grain to a seed. In my opinion, it’s a grain. In fact, it’s Wisconsin’s State Grain. (But Illinois’ State Vegetable. So I throw my hands up.)

Fruit

  • Eat plenty of fruits of all colors.
  • Choose whole fruits or sliced fruits (limit fruit juice to one small glass per day).

Whole Grains

  • Go for whole grains or foods made with minimally processed whole grains.
  • Whole grains include things like oats, brown rice, quinoa and whole wheat.

Proteins

  • Choose beans and peas, nuts, seeds, and other plant-based healthy protein options, as well as fish, eggs, and poultry.
  • Limit red meat (beef, pork, lamb) and avoid processed meats (bacon, deli meats, hot dogs, sausages).

Healthy Fats

  • Choose foods with healthy unsaturated fats.
  • Limit foods high in saturated fat, and avoid trans fats.

Dairy

  • Choose unflavored milk, plain yogurt, small amounts of cheese.

Drinks

  • Water should be the drink of choice with every meal and snack.
  • Avoid sugary drinks like sodas, fruit drinks, and sports drinks, which provide a lot of calories and virtually no other nutrients.

 

 

 

 

 

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