5 Healthy Heart Habits for Children

From 6 May, we celebrate Heart Week, Australia’s national heart health awareness week. As proud advocates for childhood nutrition, we’re passionate about heart health. The prevention of heart disease starts young, with the early years paving the way for a lifetime of healthy habits.


Cardiovascular risk factors are increasing in children, particularly those who are overweight or obese. In fact, children as young as five have already shown early signs of fatty deposits in arteries.


A major international study followed more than 40,000 children (from Australia, Finland and the US)  for a period of 35-50 years. Their results showed that five key risk factors developed in childhood are predictors of cardiovascular events (fatal and non-fatal) in adulthood, from as early as 40 years of age.


The good news is that parents and educators have a huge influence on a child’s path to a healthy life. Here are five essential habits that nurture healthy hearts from infancy onwards.




Poor diet is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease in Australia. So, what does a ‘heart-healthy’ diet look like?


Great variety

  • Fruits and vegetables: for vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants.
  • Whole grains: like brown rice, wholemeal pasta, grainy bread and oats.
  • Healthy proteins: like beans, chickpeas, lentils, seeds, seafood and eggs.
  • Healthy fats: like avocados, olives, nuts and seeds.
  • Healthy oils: like olive, canola, sunflower, peanut and soybean oil.


Less salt

Australians consume three times the recommended amount of salt. This can lead to high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.


Much of the salt we eat comes from processed and packaged foods, including potato chips, fast foods like burgers and pizza, processed meats, and commercially produced condiments and sauces. While children quickly develop a taste for salty foods, their tastebuds can also adapt to lower salt levels in food within weeks.


You can limit salt intake by:

  • eating and serving mostly fresh, minimally processed foods
  • choosing low-sodium products (less than 120mg of sodium per 100g)
  • cooking with little or no added sodium/salt
  • using herbs and spices to flavour food
  • limiting processed foods and commercial sauces.




It’s no surprise that regular physical activity is a cornerstone of heart health. However, 80% of 5–17 year-olds aren’t active enough according to Australian physical activity guidelines. These guidelines also recommend that children and teenagers should limit use of electronic media for entertainment to 2 hours per day.


And movement is only great for heart health: active kids have improved concentration, better self-confidence and stronger muscles and bones.


The key is making it fun. Exercise and activity can include anything from organised sport and bike riding to a spontaneous kitchen or classroom disco, a fast-paced scavenger hunt, skipping games – or even using screens for good, like playing interactive sports games.


You can also plan family activates that involve walking (the zoo or a fun park) and get kids involved in the garden (actively digging and planting).



It goes without saying: water is the drink of choice for heart health.


Proper hydration is essential for children: keeping joints, bones and teeth healthy, improving circulation, and boosting mood, memory and attention.


Choose water as often as possible – but if you (or your children) want something else, opt for unflavoured milk, plant milks with added calcium (soy, almond, oat, rice milk) or the occasional small glass (125ml) of 100% fruit or vegetable juice.


The Heart Foundation recommends trying to limit sugary drinks such as soft drink, cordial, fruit drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks.



With good sleep, children are better able to play, learn, concentrate, grow and develop. Poor sleep can strain the cardiovascular system, ‘mess’ with certain hormones to increase hunger, and spark a reduction in physical activity.


We know it can be easier said than done! But every attempt to establish good sleeping routines in childhood will set kids up for healthier habits down the track.


At home and in care, establish a consistent bedtime or rest routine and create a cool, calm, sleep-friendly environment. Encourage children to wind down before bed with activities like reading or listening to soft music.


Educators can also help children explore and understand sleep. For example, read books that teach healthy sleep habits and set up role play areas where children put toys and dolls to bed.


  1. BE A ‘SUPER’MODEL … and take heart
    Keep it positive and set a good example yourself. Parents and educators are role models for children, every day. Show how much you enjoy staying active and eating well. Comment on how great different (healthy) food tastes and how it holds superpowers for our bodies. Small steps can make a big difference in a child’s health over time. Developing habits and attitudes is a gradual process, especially if you’re challenging existing habits. Start with realistic goals and get creative, whether at home or in care. With their best interests at heart, we’re all helping build a healthier tomorrow.


Learn more about Heart Week 2024 and the Heart Foundation.

The Wellbeing Food Company partners with childcare providers of all sizes, delivering flavour-packed, nutrition-filled meals using natural ingredients from local markets and dairies. Each day we provide more than 50% of a child’s daily fibre requirements, more than half of their daily serves of fruit and vegetables and around 75% of their daily recommended iron intake.

For more information, check out our resources or call us today. We’d love to talk!