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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:

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:

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:

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 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.

Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children, USDA

The Food Pyramid is divided into six colored bands representing the five food groups plus oils:

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.

Nutrition and activity tips

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.

Guidelines for decreasing fat intake:

Food adjustments:

Consider the following examples of food for healthier eating:

Food Product Category

Eat Less

Eat 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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