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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:
- Cream cheese
- 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:
- 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
MyPyramid.gov is a good guideline to help you and your child eat a heart healthy diet. This guide 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 selecting foods for children and adults.
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.
Consider the following examples of food for healthier eating:
|Food Product Category||Eat Less||Eat More|
Meat and meat substitutes
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
Egg yolks (limit to 3 per week - includes eggs used in cooking)
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, and salad dressings
Unsaturated oils: safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, canola, olive, peanut
Low-fat or nonfat mayonnaise, margarine, sour cream, cream cheese, and salad dressings
Starches, Breads and Cereals
Biscuits, cornbread, muffins, pancakes, breakfast pastries, doughnuts, waffles, granolas, fried rice, and packaged pasta and rice mixes, cream soups
Whole-grain breads, pasta, rice, and cereals made without added fat
Vegetables fried or prepared with butter, cheese, or cream sauce; olives, avocados
Fresh, frozen, or canned, without added fat or sauce
Fried fruit or fruit served with butter or cream sauce
Fresh, frozen, canned, or dried
Comparison of typical meal plan verses low-fat meal plan
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