Consider children's heart health in back to school lunches

Before you stock up on fruit snacks and chocolate milk for the kids lunches, here's what pediatric cardiologists are suggesting the kiddos really eat.

Rainbow trout, tuna and rib eye steak all sound good enough to eat, but let's be honest. To a kid? Maybe not so much. A PB&J sandwich and chocolate milk might be right up their alley, though.

But that's what pediatric cardiologists at Dell Children's are trying to change.

"Heart health in adults begins as good heart health in children," says Dr. Stuart Rowe.

He tells us many of the cardiovascular risk factors that develop in childhood will follow into adulthood, and much of that is triggered by a child's diet and activity level.

"We do see kids with elevated blood pressure, elevated insulin levels and glucose levels, so we know those kids are on their way to hypertension and developing diabetes and I consider it very unfortunate because these are things that can be changed," he says.

The path to a heart healthy diet starts with somewhat of a Mediterranean diet. That includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low fat or nonfat dairy products.

Poor quality food and lack of cardiovascular activity could add to the already 10 percent of U.S. children that are obese.

"If you are obese it means that you likely have higher blood sugar, higher cholesterol, higher triglycerides, higher blood pressure and so all the risk factors escalate if you are overweight," says Dr. Rowe.

As kids grow older into adolescence, the obesity rate rises. So, Dr. Rowe tells us that's why parents should be role models for heart healthy eating for their kids. Eat whole foods, exercise together, and definitely do things around the home that make it easy for the whole family to eat healthy items. 

"There are things that can be done to try to encourage heart healthy eating habits, having the fruit cut up ahead of time and ready for the kids when they come home for snacks after school, having the fruit cut up in animal shapes and things like that that make it fun for the kids," he says.

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