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School's out

For kids, the annual exodus from school means the fun begins. But parents worry that a relaxed schedule can mean regular meals and healthy eating go the way of the textbooks during summer months.

Granted, many kids will be physically active, which is a happy, healthy benefit of school break. But escape from the usual routine can also trans-late into lazy eating habits--and for many kids, too much free time is spent in sedentary activities such as computer games or watching TV.

Parents can help kids stay active and eat healthfully this summer with these tips from the American Heart Association:

--Move it. Encourage physical activities that kids really enjoy. If they like it, they'll stick with it.

--Plan times for the whole family to take a walk, go to a farmers' market, ride bikes, swim, garden (kids love to play in the dirt and watch things grow) or just play outdoors.

--Be the role model. Your healthy, active behavior says, "Do as I do." If you park yourself in front of the TV and eat unhealthy snacks, your kids may want to do the same.

--Set specific goals and limits that kids can understand and work toward, like completing one hour of physical activity per day, or cutting back on desserts (other than fruit) to two per week.

--Be supportive and reward good behavior with a fun activity or a new pair of walking shoes--anything except food, especially candy and sweets.

--Get children involved in planning and preparing meals. Not only do most kids really enjoy this activity, but research shows they're much more likely to try new foods if they've had a hand in preparing them. Summer is a perfect time to encourage your kids to help with their breakfast, lunch and snacks. Make it part of the daily routine.

--Turn off the TV and video games and enlist the kids' help to create a grocery shopping list together. The American Heart Association's free, online "My Grocery List" builder at heartcheckmark.org is a great way the kids can use the computer to browse, with your help, through more than 800 certified heart-healthy products. Together you can click on favorite foods and create a shopping list to print and take to the store. (The kids may enjoy making their own special list.) Kids will get a kick out of this easy-to-use tool. And, grocery shopping just got faster and more fun.

--Consider dinnertime family time. When you dine together as a family, there's less chance of kids eating the wrong foods or snacking too much.

--Make reading food labels a family game. Everyone can get involved in learning about what's good for their health. This is a habit that can help change behavior for a lifetime.

Bombarded with health information at the grocery store? The heart-check mark from American Heart Association makes it easy to cut through the clutter to find tasty, heart-healthy foods. And because it's backed by science, it's reliable.

--This simple mark from the American Heart Association for healthy people over age two takes the guess-work out of heart-healthy shopping. Products bearing the heart-check mark are certified by American Heart Association to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and/or high in whole grains and fiber, as well as being low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

--Visit heartcheckmark.org and use the free "My Grocery List" builder. Click on "My Grocery List" and check out hundreds of products certified by the American Heart Association. Products are organized by food manufacturer and by categories like breads, dairy case, frozen foods, fruits and vegetables, meats, snacks and more.

To learn more about reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, visit americanheart.org, or call 1-800-AHA-USA1 for a free copy of the "Shop Smart with Heart" brochure.

Fruit Parfaits

1/3 cup cornflakes
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
2 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut
2 cups fat-free or low-fat plain yogurt, combined with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 2 cups fat-free, sugar-free or low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 medium mango, diced, or 1 cup blueberries or sliced strawberries
1 8-ounce can pineapple tidbits packed in their own juice, drained

Put cornflakes in small plastic bag. Crush to make about 2 tablespoons coarse crumbs. Heat medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Dry-roast almonds and coconut 1 1/2 minutes, or until beginning to brown, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Serves 4: 1/2 cup fruit, 1/2 cup yogurt mixture, and 1 heaping tablespoon cornflake mixture per serving. Stir in cornflakes. In medium bowl, stir together yogurt mixture and orange zest. In another medium bowl, stir together mango and pineapple. In each of 4 parfait or wine glasses, layer mixtures in following order: 1/4 cup yogurt mixture, 1/4 cup fruit mixture, 2 tablespoons yogurt mixture, 1/4 cup fruit mixture, 2 tablespoons yogurt mixture. Top each serving with 1 heaping tablespoon cornflake mixture.

This recipe is reprinted with permission from "Healthy Recipes Kids Love," Copyright © 2005 by the American Heart Association. Published by Publications International, Ltd. Available online at shopheart.org.


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