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More and More Teens Eating Their Way to Heart Disease [AUDIO]

It’s a frightening statistic. About 80 percent of teens in the United States are eating foods that will likely result in heart disease as they get older.

Michael Hevesy, Getty Images

That’s according to data from the American Heart Association.

“Teenagers are eating very similar to the way their parents are. Clearly they are not eating enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” said Dr. Felicia Stoler, Registered Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist with the New Jersey Dietetic Association. “Clearly, they are eating a lot of junk, high fat and a lot of diet products, which is not helping them improve their health outcome.”

So, what is a teenager to do?

“Parents need to be more involved in their children’s health because it’s not just how they look on the outside, but how they look on the inside. We know that the foundation for heart disease starts in childhood. It’s even before the teen years. It’s in the toddler years and the adolescent years. Good habits have to start right at the beginning of a child’s life and they have to continue and be reinforced.”

Children need at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day along with whole grains.

“When you serve whole grains, it’s important to look at the grams of fiber that are on the package. So, whether it’s pasta, bread or cereal, they should have three grams of fiber per serving,” said Dr. Stoler. “There is no place for soft drinks in the diet, so I would keep them out of the home. It’s also imperative to reduce the family’s overall fat and saturated fat content.”

In today’s day and age, so many families are constantly on the go, but there are ways to bring along healthy snacks.

“Parents can buy healthier snacks or create their own bags of whole grain crackers or high fiber cereals. Fruit comes in its own package, so that’s always easy to grab and go. Whether it’s grapes or melons when they’re in season, they’re easy to put in a bag or Tupperware container to go,” said Dr. Stoler. “Many fast food restaurants are also offering healthier options, so if you have to stop, you can always get grilled chicken or salad or even fruit.”

It’s also important to make exercise a part of a child’s life.

“Children should be up and moving. They need at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise every day,” said Dr. Stoler.

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