Improving Heart Health for Kids: 3 Things Parents Should Know


Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Although symptoms usually appear later in life, the factors that lead to the illness begin much earlier — even experiences during infancy can contribute to heart disease. Children don’t always understand the risks of heart disease, so it’s up to parents to minimize a child’s chances of getting it. While hereditary factors are impossible to change, there are lifestyle choices that make a difference in heart health for kids. Help your child live a healthy life and do what’s best for their heart.

Get Creative with Activities

An active lifestyle can improve heart health, so it’s important to get your kids moving. The trick is to give kids activities they actually want to participate in, rather than ones that make them feel like they’re doing something just to stay healthy. As children are naturally curious, consider taking them somewhere they’ve never been before like a park, playground, or swimming pool. This will encourage your children to use their imagination, as they stay active and have fun. Don’t be afraid to join in — heart health is just as important for adults as it is for children.

Make Nutrition a Priority

Like any muscle, the heart requires a balanced and healthy diet to function correctly. Unfortunately, children are often picky eaters who don’t enjoy the foods that are best for their health. One way to change unhealthy eating behaviors is to start small — slowly introduce healthy foods into a child’s diet so they don’t feel overwhelmed by a plate full of greens. You could swap whole wheat for white bread, fruit for candy, and carrots for chips. Take it one step at a time and lead by example. After all, if you’re not eating healthy, your children have a real excuse not to consume nutritious foods themselves.

Ensure a Healthy Sleep Schedule

Getting a full night’s sleep doesn’t just make a child feel better in the morning; it can help their heart in the long run. The most important part of a sleep schedule is that your kids stick to it every day of the week. This might not be so difficult on weekdays when school and homework make your child feel tired, but children sometimes want to stay up late on the weekends. Stay firm with bedtimes and eventually your children will know that going to bed at a certain hour is non-negotiable. You might feel bad making them hit the hay early, but remember that you are simply improving their heart health one night at a time. Teens require around 9 hours of sleep every night, and younger children need even more, so be sure they are getting the right amount to stay healthy.

Every kid deserves a healthy heart, so do what you can to keep things pumping smoothly. The steps you take today are sure to have a positive effect later in your child’s life. When you improve a child’s diet, exercise, or sleep schedule, you are giving them the gift of a healthier heart. Even if they don’t understand it today, they will be grateful they grow up. If you’re wondering how to get started improving your child’s heart health, check out our blog post “Benefits of Cooking for Your Kids” to tackle nutrition first. There’s nothing quite like a home-cooked meal, so make dinner more delicious and nutritious every day of the week.

Halloween Health Tips for Your Kids

halloween

We are fast approaching Halloween, and for children, that means access to excess amounts of candy. As tempting as it might seem, your kids shouldn’t dive right into that bag of sweets without a little caution. The calories in candy add up faster than you might think. Even “fun sized” candy seems like less of a blast when you consider its health effects. We know how hard it can be to put a damper of your child’s Halloween fun, but their health should come first. How do you limit sugar intake on a holiday that seems to revolve around it? Before you sift through your child’s bag and throw out every trace of junk food, consider these tips:

Continue reading “Halloween Health Tips for Your Kids”

Eating Healthy at the Minnesota State Fair

Are you and your family headed to the great Minnesota State Fair? While we love the food at the fair, not all of it is nutritious. We’ve created a map to show you some healthier options to keep in mind while you are enjoying your time with loved ones.

Keep in mind the different colors of the stars on the map, representing different types of yummy, healthy food you can find. We hope you enjoy your time at the great Minnesota get together!

Red Star: FRUIT | Blue Star: Sandwiches | Yellow Star: Meat | Black Star: Healthy Items on a Stick | Green Star: Vegetables

https://www.thinglink.com/scene/799698903170547713

Healthy Kid-Friendly Fall Recipes for the Whole Family

Fall is a spectacular time of year to capitalize on fresh produce. Vegetables like sweet potatoes, zucchini, squash, and cauliflower are wonderful editions to any mealtime – adding a nutritious boost to keep you and your family full and healthy. Here are some of the benefits of each of these delectable ingredients, and some recipes that your whole family will enjoy!

healthy kid friendly recipes

Sweet Potatoes

These power packed root vegetables make a spectacular side dish or addition to any main course! Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin C, beta-carotene, and vitamin A to promote healthy blood sugar levels, support eye health, and even provide anti-inflammatory properties. Not to mention, they’re delicious! Here are some healthy kid friendly recipes featuring sweet potatoes that will keep everybody happy.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients:

  • Sweet Potatoes (3 large should feed a family of 3-4, add more for larger families or larger servings)
  • Corn Starch
  • Coconut or Olive Oil

*This recipe varies based on the amount and size of the sweet potatoes you use.

Instructions:

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees
  • Wash and chop your sweet potatoes into shoestring fries
  • Place fries in a large zip lock bag, ensuring that you have enough space that the fries can move when the bag is shaken – if you do not have this space, use two bags.
  • Spoon a small amount of cornstarch into the bag(s) and shake. Repeat until fries are evenly coated – not caked – in cornstarch.
  • Now, spoon a small amount of oil (if coconut, melted) into the bag and shake to coat. Start slowly. You do not want to saturate the fries, simply coat them so that the cornstarch can no longer be seen.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake for 40 minutes, flipping fries after 20 minutes.
  • Let cool – a little – and enjoy!

If you’re looking for a great way to incorporate this veggie into your morning meal, check out this recipe for sweet potato pancakes! You won’t be disappointed.

 

Zucchini

Full of healthy fiber, vitamins, and nutrients, zucchini is a vegetable option you can’t beat. With high levels of vitamins C and B6, as well as potassium and phosphorous, zucchini provides health benefits ranging from reducing cardiovascular diseases to helping prevent cancer. Plus, this vegetable can be substituted into your kids’ favorite meals to create healthier versions that still taste amazing.

Zucchini Pizza Boats

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium size zucchini
  • 2 tbsp. of olive oil
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • ½ c. shredded parmesan reggiano cheese
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 c. pizza sauce
  • 1 package pepperoni, optional

Instructions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Slice zucchini in half length-wise.
  • Using a melon-baller or spoon, scoop out the inside of the zucchini halves and set aside.
  • Finely chop half of the leftover zucchini insides – save the other half for later meals.
  • Add chopped zucchini, oregano, basil, thyme, olive oil, and ¼ c. of parmesan to a medium bowl and mix.
  • Drizzle small amount of olive oil along the inside of the scooped out zucchini boats and layer the bottom with pepperoni – if desired.
  • Next, layer the pizza sauce, chopped zucchini mixture, and the remained cheese on the boats.
  • Place on baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Let cool – slightly – and enjoy!

For another kid-friendly favorite, check out this recipe for zucchini noodles!

 

Butternut Squash

One of the best sources of vitamin A outside of dietary supplements, Butternut squash is a delicious and nutrition packed vegetable that can be served in a variety of ways that your kids (and you!) will enjoy. Full of fiber, antioxidants, and minerals like zinc, iron, and calcium, this vegetable will help protect skin health, eyesight, and overall immune function.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 12 oz. package of pasta (macaroni or pasta of your preference)
  • 1 c. chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion – diced
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced
  • ½ tsp. curry
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • ½ c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper – to taste

Instructions:

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Cut butternut squash in half, seed and set on baking sheet skin side down.
  • Bake for 40 minutes or until the skin can be easily pricked with a fork.
  • While the butternut squash is baking, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook your pasta.
  • In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3-5 minutes, then add garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Scrape squash flesh from skin and place in a blender. Add garlic, onion, curry, thyme, and broth. Puree until smooth.
  • Return the puree to the skillet over medium heat. Add pasta, salt, and pepper. Stir until well combined and dish.
  • Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and enjoy!

For another easy and delicious kid-friendly butternut squash recipe, check out how to make butternut squash soup.

 

Cauliflower

A good source of vitamin C, K, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, and more, cauliflower is one of the healthiest cruciferous vegetables you can eat. Because of the vitamin and mineral make up of this veggie, it supports several essential systems within the body, helping to detoxify and reduce inflammation, and even reducing the risk of several cancers. This versatile food is a fantastic addition to a variety of dishes including:

Cauliflower Tots

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. cooked cauliflower florets – finely chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • ½ c. onion – minced
  • 3 tbsp. fresh parsley – minced
  • ½ c. sharp cheddar cheese – grated
  • ½ c. seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • non-stick cooking spray

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Spray baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients.
  • Spoon 1 tbsp. of the mixture into your hands and roll into small ovals (tot shapes!). Place on baking sheet and bake for 16-18 minutes, flipping the tots halfway through.

If you’d like to make a healthier pizza for your kids, try this recipe for cauliflower pizza crust!

A ‘Pear’-fect Fall Snack

Pears are perfectly in season this September, which provides a fantastic snack and meal option for families with picky-eaters. Not only do pears taste amazing, but because they are chalk full of vitamins, phytonutrients (nutrients that come from fruits and vegetables), and antioxidants they offer many significant health benefits!

pear-fect fall snack

Pears are a good source of:

  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin C
  • Copper
  • Pectin (water soluble fiber)
  • Potassium

 

These vitamins and minerals, in combination with a host of phytonutrients make pears an inflammation-fighting powerhouse that has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer. With its mild taste and easy digestibility, pear is an outstanding choice for people of any age, even infants!

 

Here are some of our favorite, kid-friendly pear recipes for the whole family to enjoy:

Cinnamon Baked Pears:

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10-12 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients –

  • 4 pears, halved and skinned
  • 4 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1/3-cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Baking Instructions –

  1. Place pear halves in a baking dish
  2. Brush pears generously with butter
  3. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon
  4. Bake 10-12 minutes, or longer if pears have not warmed through
  5. Serve and enjoy!

 

Spiced Pear Baked Oatmeal:

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 25-35 minutes

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients –

  • 2¼ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1¾-cup milk (or almond milk)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3-cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup diced pears (about 1 pear)

Baking Instructions –

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F
  2. Combine oats, spices, and baking powder in a mixing bowl
  3. Beat the egg in a second bowl. Then stir in milk, vanilla, and syrup
  4. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold in the pears
  5. Grease a square baking dish. Pour oatmeal into the baking dish and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until set and beginning to brown
  6. Serve immediately, or let cool and cut into 6-8 pieces if you want to freeze them

 

Crescent Roll Pear Turnovers:

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients –

  • 1 can sliced pears, drained or 1 lb. of fresh pears sliced
  • 1 can crescent roll dough
  • 2 tsp. butter, melted
  • cinnamon sugar, to taste

Baking Instructions –

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Unroll crescent dough, separating into 8 triangles (keep matching pairs together)
  3. Place 1 or 2 slices of pear in the center of one dough triangle
  4. Cover with matching triangle and pinch closed along the edges
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have four turnovers
  6. Brush melted butter over the tops and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar
  7. Place turnovers on parchment paper and bake for 11-15 minutes, or until golden
  8. Cool and serve!

 

Or, if you don’t feel like making anything, simply slice, serve, and eat! Mixing these healthful fruits into your family’s diet is a fantastic way to keep everybody healthy and happy.