Family dinners for a healthy heart.

kids eat right

Family dinners for a healthy heart

by Karen Ansel, MS RD

Family Dinners for a Healthy HeartWant your family to have healthy hearts? Start with the family dinner table. “Not only do most adults consume too much sodium, most kids do as well,” says Bethany Thayer, MS, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “That can increase their risk for high blood pressure which can eventually lead to heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.” That’s cause for concern since the average child consumes more than twice the sodium they need each day.

Opt for Spices

In the kitchen, think out of the box. Opt for spices instead of added salt. When you’re cooking, reach for low-sodium seasonings such as fresh lemon or lime juice, fresh herbs or salt-free herb blends and vinegar to boost the flavor of your favorite foods.

Surprisingly, the salt we add during cooking and at the table only accounts for about 10 percent of our day’s sodium. The main offenders are packaged and processed foods which supply more than 75 percent of the sodium we eat.

“From a very early age children’s taste buds adapt to what they’re used to eating,” says Thayer. “So the more salt they’re accustomed to, the more they’ll seek for food to taste flavorful.” By limiting salt early on you can help shape your child’s taste buds and prevent the likelihood that he or she will sprout a “salt tooth.”

Read Nutrition Labels

You can trim the sodium in your family’s diet by carefully reading the nutrition facts panel when buying canned, frozen and packaged foods. Comparing brands and labels can also go a long way as the amount of sodium in foods can vary from brand to brand by hundreds of milligrams.

Look for Foods Low in Sodium

It also helps to focus on whole, unprocessed foods which are naturally low in sodium. “Over the years our diets have become unbalanced with too much sodium and too little potassium,” says Thayer. Eating more vegetables and fruit can restore that balance. Produce contains little sodium, yet it’s rich in potassium, a mineral which balances blood pressure. However, few of us get the potassium we require. Children under the age of 13 need roughly 3,000 to 4,500 milligrams of potassium a day while teens and adults require 4,700 milligrams. Top sources include vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes and spinach and fruits such as bananas, oranges and raisins. Eating at least 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables each day can help your family get the potassium they need while also taking the place of sodium-packed processed foods on their plates.

Nadine is a Kids Eat Right volunteer.

About nadineandadamblog

Nadine and Adam are mother and son. Nadine lives in Florida where she has provided outpatient MNT in a large healthsystem for the past 20 years. In addition, she teaches nutrition to second and third year family medicine residents. She is a past-spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Adam lives in Washington State. His career has largely been involved in recipe development and food production. He is currently developing recipes and menus for the Seattle schools to meet the new federal guidelines for school nutrition programs and he does outpatient nutrition counseling. He is also a voice in PSAs over Seattle radio representing the Washington Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
This entry was posted in Food and Healthy Choices, heart health, kids eatright, Posts by Nadine and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Family dinners for a healthy heart.

  1. Pingback: Family dinners for a healthy heart. | How About Them Apples?

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