Heart-Healthy Eating

What is 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.

What is saturated fat?

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:

  • butter
  • cheese
  • cream cheese
  • bacon
  • fatty meats
  • chicken skin
  • whole milk
  • ice cream
  • coconut oil
  • palm oil

What is unsaturated fat?

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

What is cholesterol?

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:

  • meat
  • chicken
  • fish
  • eggs
  • 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.

Making healthy food choices:

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 USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the following food pyramid to guide parents in selecting foods for children 2 years and older.

Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children, USDA
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.
  • 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.

Nutrition and activity tips

  • 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 2010 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 2010 Dietary Guidelines sites. Please note that the Food Pyramid is designed for people over the age of 2 who do not have chronic health conditions.

Always consult your child’s physician regarding his/her healthy diet and exercise requirements.

Guidelines for decreasing fat intake:

  • 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.

Food adjustments:

Consider the following examples of food for healthier eating:

Food Product CategoryEat LessEat More
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

Fried fish

Regular lunch meat (bologna, salami, sausage, hot dogs)

Beef, pork, lamb, lean cuts (90 percent lean, well-trimmed before cooking)

Poultry without skin

Fish, shellfish

Processed meat prepared from lean meat

Dry beans and peas

Tofu and tempeh

Nuts and seeds

Eggs Fried eggs in butter Egg whites

Egg substitutes

Dairy products 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

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