You wouldn’t tell your child to run across the train tracks as a train was approaching and hope they move fast enough to avoid being hit. So, why do we play Russian roulette when it comes to driving through the fast food line with our kids? On any given day, as many as one-third of children ages 4 to 19 consume a fast food meal.
Diet is the number one factor that we can control to prevent high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes in children.
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Before you put your child on a pharmaceutical drug to control their blood pressure levels, talk to your doctor about incorporating a hypertension diet. Instead of convenience foods, fast foods, sodas and sweets, a hypertension diet includes the following:
- Lean meats and nuts
- Fruits and vegetables (especially those rich in magnesium, potassium and calcium)
- Regular servings of fish (omega-3 fatty acids)
What About My Picky Eater?
Knowing that children can be picky, here are a few simple suggestions to help you transition to healthful eating:
- Let your children get involved. At the grocery store, allow your child to select the healthy foods for their lunches and encourage them to pick a “rainbow” of colors – carrots, apples, bananas, etc. You can also have your child select the vegetables dishes for dinner and let them help you prepare the food. This involvement often gives them the needed motivation to actually eat the veggies on their plate which they helped to select.
- If your child simply refuses to eat any of the healthy vegetables or fruit choices you have available at a meal, make absolutely sure they do not fill up in with an unhealthy snack such as chips or animal crackers. Rather, have a variety of healthy snacks available at home instead of processed foods. Allow your child to choose their own snacks. For example, ask your child, “Would you like to eat apples or bananas?” and serve those rather than unhealthy choices. This way, your child will eventually get their healthy fruits and vegetables either at the dinner table or as snacks.
- Use repetition, rewards, and role modeling.
- Try these ideas for healthy lunches.
- If you’re still having trouble with a picky eater, talk to an integrative medicine physician or a nutritionist who can provide you with creative recipes and meal plans that your child will enjoy.
Exercise Tips for Kids
Like adults, kids need regular exercise too. Exercise can help your child maintain normal blood pressure levels and a healthy weight. Here are a few tips you can try to get your child moving:
- Limit TV time. When children spend excessive time watching television, they are less likely to spend time running and playing. Set a daily limit for the TV that is realistic for your family.
- Change video games. If your child loves to play video games, replace games that require nothing more than a remote and sitting on a couch with games that require physical activity.
- Keep a regular exercise routine for the whole family. Children usually enjoy family time. Find fun activities that the whole family can enjoy together – take a walk through the neighborhood or a local park, go bike riding, have weekly bowling nights, go to a batting cage, join a recreation center, etc. They key is to be consistent and develop a routine. Aim to have a fun “exercise” activity at least three times per week. It doesn’t require a large amount of time; a 20 or 30 minute walk can help tremendously.
Vitamins and Supplements
Typically, herbal supplements are not recommended for children unless specifically directed by their pediatrician or integrative physician. However, with the permission of your child’s doctor, the following supplements may be beneficial for children over 3 years of age:
- Children’s multivitamin
- Omega-3 fish oil
- Juice Plus
- Grape skin extract
The dosage of each of these supplements depends on the child’s weight and age. That’s why it is critically important that you seek the advice of an integrative physician before beginning a supplement regimen for your child.
If your child doesn’t have high blood pressure now, don’t wait until they do to start a healthy eating plan and exercise regimen. The fact is that the sooner you start, the easier it will be for your child to maintain a healthy lifestyle in the future. A 3 year old is much more likely to continue healthy habits than a 14 year old!
While change isn’t easy, it is well worth the effort! Start protecting your child’s future by engaging your family in a healthy lifestyle today.
Tell us about your efforts in the Comments section below. By doing so, you can be an encouragement to other parents who are making a healthy lifestyle a way of life for their family, too.
 CBS News: Fast Food Linked to Child Obesity, February 2009.
Originally published in 2012, this blog has been updated.