Nutrition and Healthy Hearts: Insights from Our Partnership with American Heart Association

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics established National Nutrition Month to educate the public about nutrition. Held each March, the campaign emphasizes the importance of making better food choices and developing healthy eating and exercise habits. The focus is on encouraging individuals to adopt and sustain a diet that supports well-being.

This year, Ohio Council of Community Schools has partnered with the American Heart Association to educate our students about the importance of heart health. National Nutrition Month is an opportunity to share how nutrition is integral to heart health. 

Why are Nutrition and Healthy Eating Important for Young People?

Healthy eating for the heart is vital for people of all ages due to its impact on health and well-being. Here's why heart-healthy nutrition is crucial when considering its importance for students:

  • Building Blocks for Long-Term Wellness: Dietary choices made early in life can shape long-term eating behaviors. Introducing heart foods to children at an early age can motivate them to continue making smart food decisions as they grow, reducing their chances of developing heart issues and other related ailments.
  • Preventing Heart Problems: Heart disease remains a global health concern. A diet packed with fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins while limiting saturated fats, salt, and processed foods can lower the risk of heart disease.
  • Promoting Healthy Growth and Development: Growing kids need a well-rounded diet to support their growth and development. Heart-healthy nutrition supplies the nutrients for cognitive growth, ensuring that children reach their full potential.
  • Boosting Learning Abilities: Proper nutrition, including heart options, is associated with enhanced function, focus, and memory in children. This can lead to achievements and a more effective learning atmosphere.
  • Preventing Obesity: Encouraging kids and teens to eat heart-healthy meals can help prevent obesity, a significant risk factor for heart disease. By promoting activity and a balanced diet, young individuals can maintain a healthy weight and lower their chances of developing heart problems.
  • Promoting Healthy Choices: Educating children on the importance of nutrition and involving them in making food choices can inspire them to lead a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise.

What Are Ways Parents and Educators Can Encourage Heart-Healthy Eating Habits for Students?

Promoting eating habits for children is crucial to laying the groundwork for a lifetime of health. Here are some simple and practical tips for parents and teachers to encourage these habits:

  • Lead by Example: Children tend to imitate adults' actions. By eating hearty foods yourself, you are showing them how to make better choices.
  • Include a Variety of Foods: Introduce kids to an array of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. Variety ensures they get a range of nutrients and helps them develop a taste for different flavors.
  • Make Healthy Eating Fun: Use cookie cutters to create fun shapes with fruits and veggies, or involve children in meal preparation to make it enjoyable. Presenting food in an entertaining manner can make healthy eating exciting.
  • Engage Children in Meal Planning and Preparation:Taking kids along for grocery shopping or cooking can boost their interest in foods. Educate them about the value of food during these activities.
  • Teach About Nutrition: Find ways to explain why certain foods are better for health than others. Understanding the benefits may inspire them to make choices. Ensure snacks like sliced veggies, fruits, nuts, and whole grain crackers are available. When these healthier options are convenient, children tend to pick them.
  • Promoting Nutritious Lunch Programs in Schools: Educators can promote lunch programs in schools. Integrate nutrition education into the curriculum to reinforce good eating habits among students.