5 Ways to Keep Your Child’s Heart Healthy

17 Jun
 Posted by Louis Ignarro, PhD  0 Comment
Start good heart-healthy habits with your child.

Find out how to keep your precious child’s heart healthy. At some point in their lives, most adults are educated on the importance of caring for their hearts, but do we pay the same attention to our children’s hearts? Adults are told to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, reduce their stress levels and get plenty of sleep and rest. And the older a person gets, the more doctors tend to advise a focus on cardiovascular wellness.

But did you know that heart health is a concern as early as infancy? Research published in the journal Proceedings of the Nutrition Society found that endothelial health can be impacted during the first decade of life. The endothelium is an organ that lines 60,000 miles of blood vessels throughout a child’s body (100,000 miles in adults). Its primary function is to produce Nitric Oxide (NO), a critical signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system that tells the blood vessels to expand or contract in response to pressures placed on the arteries. Basically, Nitric Oxide helps the cardiovascular system function smoothly. A healthy child will have a healthy endothelium that’s producing plenty of Nitric Oxide.

In the past, as recently as 50 years ago or so, endothelial health wasn’t as much of a concern in young children. But changes in diet (fast, convenient food that lacks critical nutrients) and activity (more time indoors using electronic devices) have resulted in a generation that needs to refocus on heart health. Kids need adult guidance to get back to the basics: good food, lots of movement, and a life of happiness and vitality.

5 ways you can support your child’s heart health

#1 Get active

Kids don’t exercise the same way adults do, but they can still be active. Set limits on the amount of screen time your child is allowed each day, and encourage outside play. If weather doesn’t allow outdoor time, promote active play indoors to keep your kids moving. They don’t need to be playing catch, but even hide and seek is more active than sitting on the couch! Or, make a game out of doing chores, such as cleaning the house. Consider going to a local community center or gym. Most cities have low-cost options that offer endless opportunities to get your child moving. For younger children, libraries often offer a “music time” to let them wiggle and move around. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 60 minutes of daily activity for children and adolescents, so be creative in how you get your child moving.

#2 Join a group or team

Most areas have activity groups for young children. And as your children reach school age, and especially into their teens, organized sports are a great way to get them moving. Your child will learn a sport, develop coordination, make friends, and discover the importance of teamwork all while keep their heart healthy.

#3 Snack healthy

Even if you’re feeding your child healthy, balanced meals, it can be easy to reach for a quick and convenient snack between mealtimes. Instead, opt for heart healthier choices like celery sticks with peanut butter, avocado on whole wheat toast, or apple slices paired with low-fat cheese. Remember that it’s just as important for children to eat healthy between meals as it is at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

#4 Laugh more

There’s nothing sweeter than a child’s laugh, and it turns out that cracking jokes can help support heart health. Research conducted at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore found that “laughter is linked to healthy function of blood vessels.” The researchers found that laughter causes the endothelium to dilate, or expand, in order to increase blood flow. So, have fun and get your child laughing to help keep their heart healthy.

#5 Move as a family

Families who move together stay healthy together. If you like to jog, then ask your child to accompany you on their bike. Go for an after-dinner walk; turn off the television and head to the local bowling alley for a game or two; shoot hoops at the local park; or even walk to the grocery store. It doesn’t matter how you move—just that you do it.


Good habits in childhood and adolescence set the foundation for a lifetime of wellness. Be an example of healthy living, and encourage kids to adopt heart-healthy habits. It’s never too early to start focusing on the heart.

Written by Louis Ignarro, Ph.D.  Dr. Ignarro is a member of both the Editorial and Nutrition Advisory Boards of the Herbalife Nutrition Institute and receives compensation for his endorsement of Herbalife® products. 

5 Tips to Help Your Child Athlete Fuel Up for Exercise

17 Jun


 Posted by Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training  0 Comment
Active children need regular hydration.

Getting fueled up for activity is really no different for kids than it is for adults. Be sure their getting the right pre-sport meals, staying hydrated and refueling after their sporting event.

Active children can burn through a lot of calories—so much so, that it often seems there’s no way to satisfy their appetites. Children who participate in sports may have intensive practices and games several times a week, burning through calories like there’s no tomorrow.

When their appetites are out-of-control, it’s tempting to let active children eat what they want, thinking that they’ll just burn it off. But even when calorie needs are high, kids and their parents need to understand that it doesn’t give them license to eat foods with little nutritional value.

Getting fueled up for activity is really no different for kids than it is for adults. They need the right pre-sport meals, to stay hydrated and refuel after the event, which are the biggest concerns. The only wrinkle is that kids are often more picky about what they’ll eat than adults are, so it can be a bit more challenging to meet the nutritional needs of a child athlete.

Kids who are serious about sports are often more receptive than others to trying new foods. When children understand that a healthy diet can help them with performance, it’s often a lot easier to encourage them to take in more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans—and less fat and sugar.

Energy Food for the Child Athlete

Children need to understand that their body is like an engine, one that needs the right fuel to run properly. Healthy carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables and grains (like whole grain breads, crackers, cereals or pasta) are the body’s preferred source of fuel. They help to not only sustain exercise, but are needed afterwards to help replenish body stores.

The body also needs healthy lean proteins from foods like lean meats, poultry, fish, milk, yogurt, eggs and soybeans. These help build and repair muscles after exercising. And small amounts of healthy fats from foods like avocados or nuts help meet calorie needs.

  • Before games or practice, kids need to ‘top off the tank’ with some carbohydrates to provide energy. Give them something easy to digest like a smoothie, a carton of yogurt or a small bowl of cereal and milk. Keep meals low in fat so they’ll be easy to digest.
  • During exercise, keeping kids hydrated is vital. Water is fine, but a hydration drink is great for extended exercise or when the weather is particularly hot or humid.
  • After exercise, it’s important to refuel muscles with some beneficial carbohydrates and protein. Chocolate milk is an all-time favorite recovery food, since it provides fluid, potassium, carbohydrates and protein—all of which the body craves after activity. Other great post-exercise foods are sandwiches, fruits, yogurt and smoothies.
  • Kids need fiber, but it’s best to offer high-fiber foods after exercise to avoid stomach upset. Save the whole grain breads and pastas for after the game.
  • For those kids with high calorie needs, you can offer higher calorie foods that are also nutrient-rich like nuts, 100% fruit juices, dried fruits, peanut butter and trail mix.

5 Great Food Pairings for Better Nutrition

15 Jun


  1.  Posted by Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training  0 Comment
Leafy greens are rich in calcium.

Sure, chocolate and strawberries make a delicious combo, but there’s more to pairing foods than combining items that taste great together. Get the most out of your diet by learning to pair foods that complement each other nutritionally, too.

People often ask me if there are certain foods that they should, or shouldn’t, eat at the same time. Some people have heard that “If you don’t eat proteins and carbs at the same meal, you’ll lose weight.” But a study published about ten years ago debunked that idea. On the other hand, there is another concept around food combining––sometimes called food synergy or food pairing––which recognizes that certain foods offer a bit more nutritional benefit when eaten together than if you eat them separately. Think of it as a nutritional ‘one and one makes three.’

How to Get Better Nutrition With Food Pairing

  • Colorful veggies with a little fat.

    Many fruits and vegetables contain compounds called carotenoids. These are natural pigments that give foods like tomatoes, carrots and spinach their beautiful hues––from the pigments lycopene, beta-carotene and lutein, respectively. Carotenoids function as antioxidants in the body, which is one reason why fruits and vegetables are such an important part of a healthy diet. These important compounds are fat-soluble, which means that when you eat your veggies with a little bit of fat, your body is able to take up more carotenoids. So, adding some healthy fat from avocado or olive oil to your salad, for example, will help you absorb the carotenoids found in the romaine lettuce, carrots and tomatoes.

  • Vitamin C with iron-containing veggies and grains.

    Iron comes in two different forms in foods. One form called ‘heme’ iron is found in fish, meat and poultry, and it’s more easily absorbed by the body than the so-called ‘non-heme’ iron found in certain veggies and grains. When you take in some vitamin C along with a source of non-heme iron, your body will absorb the iron better. And it doesn’t take much: the amount of vitamin C in one orange or one tomato can nearly triple iron absorption. So, tomatoes in your chili will help you absorb the iron in the beans. Strawberries will help you take up the iron in your cereal. And the iron in spinach will be better absorbed if you toss some orange or grapefruit wedges into your spinach salad.

  • Lemon and green tea.

    Green tea phytonutrients, which are naturally occurring and contain some unique and beneficial antioxidants called catechins, act to help protect the body’s cells and tissues from oxidative damage. When you add lemon to your green tea, the vitamin C can help your body absorb these beneficial compounds. If you don’t like lemon in your tea, have a fruit that’s rich in vitamin C along with your brew, like a bowl of berries or a sliced orange.

  • Fish and leafy greens.

    When you drink milk that’s fortified with vitamin D (as is nearly all the milk sold in the US), the vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium in the milk. But there’s another great way to pair these two nutrients––fish and veggies. Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel provide vitamin D, and leafy greens like turnip greens, mustard greens and kale provide calcium. Pairing the two will help your body take up the calcium in the veggies.