Heart Healthy Eating
A diet high in fat and cholesterol may contribute to the development of heart disease in adulthood. A "heart healthy" diet may help prevent or treat high blood cholesterol levels. The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition recommends that healthy children age 2 years or older follow a diet low in fat (30 percent of calories from fat). These are the same recommendations for healthy adults. A diet high in fat, especially saturated fat, may increase your child's risk for heart disease and obesity in adulthood. It is important to teach your child about healthy eating so that they can make healthy food choices as adults.
It is important not to put children under the age of 2 years on a low fat diet unless advised by your child's physician. Children under the age of 2 years need fat in their diets to promote appropriate growth and development.
Saturated fat is a type of fat that is found in foods. This type of fat may raise the body's total blood cholesterol level more than other types of fat. Most saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Some foods high in saturated fat include the following:
- cream cheese
- fatty meats
- chicken skin
- whole milk
- ice cream
- coconut oil
- palm oil
Unsaturated fat is a type of fat that is found in foods. This type of fat does not usually increase the body's total blood cholesterol level when eaten in moderate amounts. Some foods high in unsaturated fats include the following:
- olive oil
- canola oil
- nuts and seeds
- peanut butter
- corn oil and vegetable oils
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is made by the body and found in some foods. Cholesterol found in foods is called dietary cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol is found in animal foods such as the following:
- dairy products
Plant foods (grains, fruits, and vegetables) do not contain cholesterol. If the body's blood cholesterol gets too high, then cholesterol may build up in the heart and cause damage.
The food guide pyramid is a guideline to help you and your child eat a healthy diet. The food guide pyramid can help you and your child eat a variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the following food pyramid to guide parents in selecting foods for children 2 years and older.
Click Image to Enlarge
The Food Pyramid is divided into six colored bands representing the five food groups plus oils:
- Orange represents grains: Make half the grains consumed each day whole grains. Whole-grain foods include oatmeal, whole-wheat flour, whole cornmeal, brown rice, and whole-wheat bread. Check the food label on processed foods - the words “whole” or “whole grain” should be listed before the specific grain in the product.
- Green represents vegetables: Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety of vegetables, including dark green- and orange-colored kinds, legumes (peas and beans), starchy vegetables, and other vegetables.
- Red represents fruits: Focus on fruits. Any fruit or 100 percent fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed.
- Yellow represents oils: Know the limits on fats, sugars, and salt (sodium). Make most of your fat sources from fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. Limit solid fats like butter, stick margarine, shortening, and lard, as well as foods that contain these.
- Blue represents milk: Get your calcium-rich foods. Milk and milk products contain calcium and vitamin D, both important ingredients in building and maintaining bone tissue. Use low-fat or fat-free milk after the age of two years. However, during the first year of life, infants should be fed breast milk or iron-fortified formula. Whole cow’s milk may be introduced after an infant’s first birthday, but lower-fat or skim milk should not be used until the child is at least two years old.
- Purple represents meat and beans: Go lean on protein. Choose low fat or lean meats and poultry. Vary your protein routine - choose more fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.
Activity is also represented on the pyramid by the steps and the person climbing them, as a reminder of the importance of daily physical activity.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 (the most recent guidelines), a decrease in energy intake of 50 to 100 calories per day for children who are gaining excess fat can reduce the rate at which they gain weight. With this reduction in energy intake, they will grow into a healthy weight as they age. Help your child to find higher-calorie foods that can be cut from his/her daily intake.
- Try to control when and where food is eaten by your children by providing regular daily meal times with social interaction and demonstration of healthy eating behaviors.
- Involve children in the selection and preparation of foods and teach them to make healthy choices by providing opportunities to select foods based on their nutritional value.
- For children in general, reported dietary intakes of the following are low enough to be of concern by the USDA: vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. Select foods with these nutrients when possible.
- Most Americans need to reduce the amount of calories they consume. When it comes to weight control, calories do count. Controlling portion sizes and eating non-processed foods helps limit calorie intake and increase nutrients.
- Parents are encouraged to provide recommended serving sizes for children.
- Parents are encouraged to limit children’s video, television watching, and computer use to less than two hours daily and replace the sedentary activities with activities that require more movement.
- Children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days for maintenance of good health and fitness and for healthy weight during growth.
- To prevent dehydration, encourage children to drink fluid regularly during physical activity and drink several glasses of water or other fluid after the physical activity is completed.
To find more information about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 and to determine the appropriate dietary recommendations for your child’s age, sex, and physical activity level, visit the Online Resources page for the links to the Food Pyramid and 2005 Dietary Guidelines sites. Please note that the Food Pyramid is designed for persons over the age of two who do not have chronic health conditions.
Always consult your child’s physician regarding his/her healthy diet and exercise requirements.
- Bake, broil, or grill foods instead of frying whenever possible.
- Choose low-fat meats such as chicken, fish, turkey, lean pork, and lean beef (meat without visible fat and without skin).
- Limit high-fat meats such as sausage, bacon, hot dogs, salami, pepperoni, bologna, and fried meat.
- Increase intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Use fruits as dessert instead of high-fat desserts (i.e., ice cream, cake, cookies).
- Limit amounts of added fat such as margarine, butter, oil, salad dressing, and mayonnaise.
- Use low-fat dairy products such as low-fat milk, low-fat or fat-free cheese, low-fat or fat-free sour cream and cream cheese, and low-fat ice cream.
Consider the following examples of food for healthier eating:
|Food Product Category
|Meat and meat substitutes, poultry, fish, dry beans, and nuts
||Regular beef, pork, lamb, regular ground beef, fatty cuts of meat
Poultry with skin, fried chicken
Regular lunch meat (bologna, salami, sausage, hot dogs)
|Beef, pork, lamb, lean cuts (90 percent lean, well-trimmed before cooking)
Poultry without skin
Processed meat prepared from lean meat
Dry beans and peas
Tofu and tempeh
Nuts and seeds
||Fried eggs in butter
||Milk: whole and 2 percent milk
Yogurt: whole milk types
Cheese: Regular cheeses (American, cheddar, Swiss, blue, Monterey Jack, cream cheese)
Frozen dairy desserts: regular ice cream
|Milk: nonfat (skim), low-fat, buttermilk
Yogurt: nonfat or low-fat
Cheese: low-fat or nonfat types
Frozen dairy desserts: low-fat or nonfat ice cream, low-fat or nonfat frozen yogurt
|Fats and oils
||Coconut oil, palm kernel, palm oil, butter, lard, shortening, bacon fat, regular mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, salad dressings, and trans fats
||Unsaturated oils: safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, canola, olive, peanut
Low-fat or nonfat mayonnaise, margarine, sour cream, cream cheese, and salad dressings
|Grains (whole grains and refined grains)
||Refined grains, biscuits, cornbread, muffins, pancakes, breakfast pastries, doughnuts, waffles, granolas, fried rice, and packaged pasta and rice mixes
||Whole-grain breads, pasta, rice, and cereals made without added fat
|Vegetables (dark green- and orange-colored kinds, legumes-beans and peas, starchy vegetables, and other vegetables)
||Vegetables fried or prepared with butter, cheese, or cream sauce; olives, avocados
||Fresh, frozen, or canned, without added fat or sauce
|Fruit (whole, cut- up, pureed, and 100 percent fruit juice)
||Fried fruit or fruit served with butter or cream sauce
||Fresh, frozen, canned, or dried
Click here to view the
Online Resources of Cardiovascular Disorders