How to Pack Your Child a Heart-Healthy Lunch


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WHITE PLAINS – As summer comes to a close, parents are likely thinking about shopping for clothing and supplies in preparation for their children’s return to school. However, they should also consider the essential role their child’s lunch plays in his wellbeing and success in the year ahead.

Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of illness and premature death in men and women around the world, and mounting evidence reveals the importance of primary prevention of heart disease beginning in childhood. The American Heart Association recommends that children eat a wide variety of foods while consuming enough calories to support their growth and development.

“Kids and their families should eat foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat, choose a wide range of foods to get enough carbohydrates, protein and other nutrients, and consume enough calories to maintain a healthy weight for their height, build and activity level,” said Dr. Samantha C. Lowe, a pediatrician at White Plains Hospital Physician Associates.

A disturbing trend observed around the country is the increase of overweight and obese children. The trend is particularly alarming because obesity increases risk for other major cardiovascular disease risk factors like hypertension, cholesterol disorders and type-2 diabetes, which are rising in children and adolescents.

“Teaching children healthy eating habits now may increase their chances of living a healthy life helping to reduce their chances of developing cardiovascular disease later in life,” Dr. Lowe said.

Here are some tips to think about when preparing your children’s food:

• Choose foods naturally low in saturated fat and cholesterol, like fruits and vegetables. Most are naturally low in fat, calories and sodium and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

• Swap peanut butter with added sugars and oils to one made with JUST peanuts.

• Use lean meats. Choose fish, chicken, turkey and lean cuts of beef and pork.

• Switch to fat-free milk. Gradually reduce the fat content of the milk your family drinks. Start with 2%…then try 1%…and finally fat-free milk.

• Switch white bread to wheat bread.

• Change juice boxes or chocolate milk for water (infuse it with fruit if they need a flavor boost).

A nutritious, heart-healthy lunch, combined with daily exercise, will help set up every child for a year of optimal learning and development.

For additional heart-healthy tips, visit www.heart.org/healthyliving.

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