Raising Heart-Smart Kids (cont.)

We all enjoy a tuna sandwich for lunch two or three times a week. Although worth a shot, I found fat-free mayonnaise unsatisfying. As a compromise, I squeezed lemon juice on the tuna and used smaller amounts of real mayonnaise: not ideal as far as the fat content, but better than nothing.

I found a hot-and-sour soup recipe on the AHA web site, and it turned out to be delicious; my spouse had two bowls for dinner, but it was too spicy for the kids. And the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook was a treasure. I whipped up the white bean and roasted pepper dip and served it to the kids with carrot sticks. "More!" said my son.

My spouse was looking forward to frozen fish sticks for dinner but was chagrined to learn that they were actually fried and had 11 grams of fat per serving. A better idea: Dip fresh fish filets in egg whites, roll them in cornflake crumbs and bake.

With food choices mastered, we faced the next step: Exercise.

Keep Moving

To help our family get going, I joined the AHA Choose to Move plan -- a program that encourages you to make exercise a part of everyday life. I had been swimming twice a week at the pool for a long time, but I wanted to add an activity that would get my spouse moving and would include the kids.

We found a park where we could push the strollers while walking briskly and did that three days in a row for 45 minutes -- an activity that swiftly showed us how out of shape we were. The problem was being consistent. The next week we walked only twice; the following week we walked once and took the kids to the pool once.

The number one reason people stop exercising, according to the AHA, is that they start with a program that's too ambitious. So we scaled back. Instead of feeling defeated when we didn't exercise every day, we were content to exercise as a family twice a week. My spouse pointed out that gardening counted as exercise, and that was something the kids loved to do, too.

We're on our way now, and I really think we're going to keep it up. The kids don't notice the difference between life before and after we made these simple changes. They'll grow up knowing this is how we live. And most important, they'll grow up with healthy bodies -- and hearts.

Orginally published Aug. 25, 2000.

Medically updated Aug. 4, 2003.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/30/2005 11:05:53 PM