Healthy heart nutrition: Start early, practice often

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| By Dr. Stephen Sinatra

I always tell people that it’s never too late to start making positive lifestyle changes to improve heart health. But the flipside of this statement is also very important: It’s never too early to adopt healthy heart habits to ensure optimal cardiovascular health throughout life. Unfortunately, new research reveals that too many of our children and grandchildren haven’t gotten this message.

it's never too soon for heart-healthy nutritionThe journal Circulation has just published findings that reveal that most children between the ages of 2 and 19 in the United States don’t meet the American Heart Association’s classification of ideal childhood cardiovascular health. Seven different health metrics were measured to make this determination, including whether or not children ate a healthy diet.

Significantly, almost all of the children in the study (a whopping 91 percent!) scored poorly on diet measurements. The study’s lead author even called out the fact that poor nutrition—eating too many high-calorie, low-nutrition foods and not eating enough fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, and fish—is a primary reason so few children in the study had ideal cardiovascular health.

What’s the Best Way to Introduce Kids to Healthy Heart Nutrition?

One of the best ways to encourage your children and grandchildren to eat healthier is by making smoothies together. Let your kids add the ingredients themselves. This particular recipe is packed with omega-3s for brain health, antioxidants for a healthy immune system, and fiber to keep them full until lunch.

Plus, while you’re at it why not make one for yourself? The same omega-3s, antioxidants, and fiber also help to control high blood pressure levels and maintain good cholesterol levels.

Heart Smart Smoothie

  • 1 Tbsp. flaxseeds, ground
  • ½ cup fresh fruit—blueberries, a peach, kiwi, or whatever you like (choose organic)
  • 8 oz. organic rice milk, organic whole milk, organic yogurt, or unsweetened juice (you can also use water or a combination)
  • 1 serving size (follow product directions) of whey protein powder

Put ingredients into a blender and whirl. If you want a cold, shake-like taste experience, add ice or use frozen juice cubes. Fresh and organic is best, but when neither organic nor fresh fruits are in season you can use frozen fruits. Depending on how you make it, this smoothie can come out so thick that you’ll need a spoon. Or, you can add more liquid. (Makes one serving)

Now it’s your turn: How do you encourage your kids to eat heart healthy foods?

This article originally appeared on Dr. Sinatra’s website.

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