By Karen Stokes
Dr. Joseph Block, Pediatric Cardiologist, runs the Healthy Hearts Clinic at Children’s Hospital. The clinic deals primarily with children with hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure and family history of heart disease.
“We try to see kids early if we can because in our society there are sedentary lifestyles and poor dietary habits and it’s much easier to intervene earlier in life and teach kids how to eat. It’s much easier to do that at an early age than to do that in adulthood. Most of our families struggle with this, so while we focus on the child, we try to promote things that the whole family needs to do,” said Dr. Block.
Kids seem to always be hungry, especially between meals. While sugary and salty foods can be the “go to” snacks, there’s better, healthier choices.
Dr. Block offered suggestions for healthy snacks, “Whole grain pretzels, low fat string cheeses, making fruit smoothies with a Greek yogurt, really promoting fruits and vegetables and whole grain options are key, also whole grain pita and vegetables hummus, or making a homemade trail mix with whole grain cereal, nuts and fruits. I think they are great options.”
Along with a healthy diet, children need to keep moving. A real goal of exercise should be 60 minutes a day of moderate physical activity and less than two hours a day of screen time which leads to lack of physical activity.
“They may be able to get this amount of exercise in gym class but I think more and more schools struggle with having gym everyday so really that’s our goal, we want kids playing and having fun,” Dr. Block said. “It’s important for their overall physical health. When kids are more sedentary it adds to additional problems with weight and that can further exacerbate problems with diabetes and hypertension.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends avoiding screens for children younger than 18 to 24 months, except when video chatting with family. The AAP also recommends limiting screen use for preschool children, ages 2 to 5, to just one hour a day of high-quality programming (think Sesame Street or PBS).
A healthy routine can help kids feel better, improve mental health and decrease and prevent conditions such as anxiety and depression.
For information on healthy food and choices for your family go to: Childrens Wisconsin, American Academy of Pediatrics or the American Heart Association websites.