February is National Heart Month and a great time to hear some perspectives from Moms about how they love and care for their young hearts.
From the moment we hear the first heartbeat to the day they come home crying because someone hurt their feelings, we, as moms are the protectors of our children’s hearts. And just as important, we must nourish their hearts with high quality nutrient-rich foods that fuel their bodies to grow and learn and thrive. February is National Heart Month and a great time to hear some perspectives from Moms about how they love and care for their young hearts:
Amy Paturel, MS, MPH
Award Winning Journalist
I want my twin boys to live a long, healthy, active and happy life! That starts with good nutrition. If they don't have the right fuel to support the tremendous demands on their little bodies at this young age, they could develop a host of issues from stunted physical growth to slow brain development. On the other hand, if they grow up loving healthful foods, the choices they make over their lifetimes will not only help them stave off conditions ranging from cancer to heart disease, but it may also help them perform better academically (and in sports!).
My boys are young, so it's a little easier to inspire them to eat healthfully. After all, they only eat what I give them! That said, I try to introduce them to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. I want them to become familiar with the taste of different types of produce and to grow up loving healthful foods as much as I do. I tend to sneak a little flaxseed into their yogurt or oatmeal and I try to get healthy fats like avocados and olive oil into their daily diet. As with all things, modeling the behavior you want them to emulate is key!
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CND
President and Founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition
As a mother and dietitian, it’s important for me to instill good eating habits upon my children from a young age. This will help them make better choices in the future when I’m not around.
My best tip: When they are really hungry right after school or before dinner, I have a platter of cut up veggies waiting for them. Before I turn around, all I hear is a crunching sound and not one complaint. Watch for the “Healthy Moms/Healthy Kids” interview with Toby on March 14.
Melissa Halas-Liang, MA, RD, CDE
Founder of SuperKids Nutrition
A great way to show kids how much you love them is by taking care of their little growing hearts! Teach them about it, how to find their heart beat and how healthy foods help them run, think, look and feel their best. Then get kids in the kitchen and remember on holidays, not all hearts come in chocolate! Have them make healthy foods into the shape of hearts using berries, apples or red bell peppers. Remember, healthy kids grow up to be healthy adults, and what they eat now helps prevent heart disease later. Watch for the “Healthy Moms/Healthy Kids” interview with Melissa on February 28.
SVP of Public Affairs and Communications at the National Restaurant Association, champion for the Kids LiveWell Program
As a mom, I want my children to have happy hearts and healthy hearts! Finding ways to get my four year-old daughter and six year-old son to enjoy -and even crave- vegetables can be a challenge, but will hopefully start them down a lifelong path of healthful eating. I’ve realized that using some fun terminology can go a long way. My daughter’s favorite vegetable has become broccoli because we describe it as ‘little trees.’
I love the fact that the number of options for children’s meals that include fruits and vegetables like broccoli- as well as lean protein and whole grains – has been growing so rapidly in restaurants across the country. With so many families being time-crunched, programs like Kids LiveWell give parents an easy way to identify healthful restaurant meals. And my husband and I have found the Kids LiveWell smartphone app to be a great tool in locating restaurants offering healthful kids meals when we’ve been on the go!
Amanda Hibshman, RD
Registered Dietitian at Healthy Dining
Right now I am 8 months pregnant with my first child, a baby girl. At every monthly visit, my doctor routinely pulls out her Doppler and we get to listen to my baby’s heartbeat. I look forward to hearing it every month and always feel relieved when my doctor tells me that it sounds good and strong. As an expecting mother, there is nothing sweeter than listening to your baby’s heartbeat, and hope that it will stay beating strong for the rest of their life.
One way I try to ensure that will happen is by building a strong foundation for my baby girl that is full of heart healthy foods that will help her have a healthy diet for the rest of her life. Research has shown that dietary choices you make while pregnant and breastfeeding can play an important role in your children’s preferences and health status later in life. Knowing that my baby’s palate is being formed in utero, I definitely think twice before I reach for foods that I wouldn’t want her to eat. Instead, I try to choose vegetables, whole grains, fruits, low-fat dairy and lean protein, because I know that is the best possible head-start I can give my baby (and her heart!)
Account Executive at MTV Networks
My son, Luke, is just over one year. Introducing new foods to him has been an interesting process – one that my husband and I pay special attention to because we believe that starting heart-healthy eating habits now will only help us (and Luke) in the long run. I think at this stage, the most important way to create healthy eating habits is by making mealtime a shared event. Everything that Luke eats, we eat. He is at a stage where he mimics motions and facial expressions and we have found that if he sees us eating little pieces of chicken/butternut squash/broccoli/etc. similar to his, he is more willing to eat them. We also give him a range of foods and try not to limit what we give him to just our preferences. For example, I am not a huge fish fan but Luke will be trying it this week for this first time. This means, unfortunately for me, that I will be eating little pieces of fish, smiling and telling him how yummy it is. But again, he shouldn’t be constrained only to the types of foods that my husband and I enjoy. And, we always give a new food a second or third chance. If it didn’t go over well the first time, we table it for a couple of days and try it again. All in all, things are going well so far. Luke is a champion eater (who would have thought that a one-year old would be such a big fan broccoli?
Corporate Chef for Great New Hampshire Restaurants
I think it is so important to teach my kids about a heart healthy diet because to me it is part of the fundamental knowledge we all need in order to be as successful as possible in life. Much like we teach our kids the importance of brushing their teeth and how to make wise choices so they can be safe; our kids need to know how to take care of their bodies and make wise choices for their health (in an age appropriate way of course!)
For holidays and special occasions, instead of cookie decorating or bringing a plate of cookies to friends or parties, I like to make a Chocolate Covered Fruit tray. I use fruits like strawberries, blueberries and apples and then dip a small part of the fruit in chocolate, so each treat has far fewer calories and less sugar than most holiday treats. I use a nice dark chocolate and milk chocolate blend. Sometimes I roll the chocolate covered fruits (while still tacky) in crushed candy, coconut, crushed pretzels, holiday themed sprinkles, or toffee bits. Although still a sweet treat; these gems are certainly much healthier because the fruit provides great nutrients and fiber.