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Healthy Habits Start at Home

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According to doctors, parents should instill heart-healthy habits in their children early in life to ensure those habits carry over into adulthood. This is important because research shows that fatty plaque buildup in the arteries can begin even in early childhood.

While genetics play a factor in some cases of heart disease, most are related to a person’s long-term lifestyle choices, such as whether they smoke, the food choices they make and how physically active they are. This is where parents come in.

Parents have a huge influence on whether their children develop healthy habits, and it’s never too early to start teaching children healthy habits. After all, the best medicine is prevention. Here are some tips and guidelines to help you get started:

Be a good role model. You don’t have to be perfect all the time, but if kids see you trying to eat right and exercise, they’ll take notice of your efforts.

Encourage healthy eating habits. Provide children with plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products. Limit the calorie-rich, high-fat, and high-sugar temptations in your home. Serve reasonably sized portions and try substituting water for sugary beverages.  

Get the whole family moving. Plan times for everyone to get moving together. Take walks, ride bikes, go swimming, garden or just play hide-and-seek outside.

Limit TV, video game and computer time. These habits lead to a sedentary lifestyle and excessive snacking, which increase risks for obesity and heart disease. Limit to two hours a day.

Stay positive. Kids don’t like to hear what they can’t do, so tell them what they can do instead. Everyone likes to be praised for a job well done. Celebrate successes and help children develop a good self-image.

Encourage fun physical activities. Every child is unique. Let your child experiment with different activities until they find something that they really love doing.

Pick truly rewarding rewards. Don’t reward children with TV, video games, candy or snacks for a job well done. Find other, more engaging ways to celebrate good behavior.

Make dinnertime a family time. When everyone sits down together to eat, there’s less chance of children eating the wrong foods or snacking too much.

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