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Children’s Diets During American Heart Month

by Joe Lawrence March 30th, 2014 | Children's Health, Health Observance
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fast food (400x400)February is American Heart Month where we need to highlight the heart disease requiring research and those that we already know how to prevent with proper care. Adults, for the most part, know what needs to be done to make a difference. However, when it comes to our children we often ignore the truths, especially when it comes to their diets.

There are very few, if any, people on this planet who wouldn’t argue that fast food is terrible for heart health. Why then, do we allow them to eat fast food two to three times per week? On any given day in America, 33% of children under 19 eat fast food. This has been a rising trend every since the early 70s. Sure, we can claim victim-hood and say it is because the demon fast food establishments market to children. The one to blame is us as parents.

Often both parents are working and making a multiple course, sit-down dinner is pretty complicated. The appeal to grab something “fast” is very difficult to pass up after a rough day. However, is this shortcut needed as often as we use it and is it really worth it?

First of all, I want to debunk a common myth that we try to justify the food by purchasing a grilled chicken sandwich or salad because they are healthier. Something to consider is that the chicken is not the same quality as a grocery store chicken and it may have been grilled at one time, but it is re-heated in a fryer or grease on the grill. Salads are packed with calorie boosting additives and the dressings are rarely “heart friendly.”

Just to solve that myth alone, I can offer two simple solutions. One, for the chicken, buy some in bulk (enough for a few days) and pick one day to grill it all. Then, store it in the fridge and reheat it in a toaster oven or a touch of Omega-3 packed olive oil on the stove. This is no different than what the fast food places are doing, but you know the chicken is quality and you are reheating in a more healthy way. Serve this as a chicken sandwich with a healthy side and you save money and their heart health.

For salads, there is a new trend of making them ahead also in jars. It is an odd concept, but it works great. Sure kids are not big salad eaters; however, they will surprise you if you break the convention of a boring lettuce and dressing mix. For a kid approved mix, take some strawberries, mandarin oranges, shredded mozzarella cheese, lettuce and raspberry vinaigrette. Pour some vinaigrette into the bottom of the jar, then add the fruit. Next add the lettuce and top with cheese. When ready to eat dump it out onto a plate and toss a bit.

If these are not a big hit with your kids, at least use them as a springboard to knowing there are alternatives.

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.