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 cholesterol. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that healthy children age 2 and older follow a diet low in fat (30% 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 he or she can make healthy food choices as an adult.
Don't put children younger than age 2 on a low-fat diet unless advised by your child's healthcare provider. Children younger than age 2 need fat in their diets to promote appropriate growth and development.
What is saturated fat?
Saturated fat is a type of fat found in foods and is usually solid at room temperature. This type of fat may raise the body's cholesterol level more than other types of fat. Limit saturated fat and replace it with unsaturated fat to help decrease the risk for heart disease. Some of the main sources of saturated fat include:
Fatty meats (bacon, hot dogs, ribs, and sausage)
Grain and dairy based desserts
What is unsaturated fat?
Unsaturated fat is a type of fat in foods and is usually liquid at room temperature. This type of fat does not usually increase cholesterol when eaten in moderate amounts. Choose foods high in unsaturated fats:
Safflower and sunflower oil
Nuts and seeds
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 and is found only in animal foods, like the following:
Plant foods (grains, fruits, and vegetables) don't contain cholesterol. If cholesterol gets too high, then it may build up in the blood vessels and cause damage. For decades, it has been recommended to limit the amount of cholesterol in your diet. However, recent evidence suggests cholesterol from food doesn't raise cholesterol levels as much as previously thought.
Making healthy food choices
The MyPlate icon is a guideline to help you and your child eat a healthy diet. MyPlate 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 developed the following food plate to guide parents in selecting foods for children age 2 and older.
The MyPlate icon is divided into 5 food categories, emphasizing the nutritional intake of the following:
Grains. Foods made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain are grain products. Make at least half of your grains whole-grains. Examples of whole-grains include whole-wheat, brown rice, and oatmeal.
Vegetables. Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red, and orange vegetables, legumes (dry beans and peas), and starchy vegetables. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
Fruits. Any fruit or 100% 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. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no juice for children under 1 year old. For children ages 1 to 3, limit juice to 4 ounces per day. For children 4 to 6, limit juice to 6 ounces per day. For children 7 to 18, limit juice to 8 ounces or 1 cup of juice per day.
Dairy. Milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group. Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk products, as well as those that are high in calcium.
Protein. Go lean with protein. Choose low-fat or lean cuts of meat and poultry. Vary your protein routine by choosing more fish, nuts, seeds, dried beans, and peas.
Oils are not a food group, yet you can include some in moderation, like vegetable and nut oils. These contain essential nutrients. Avoid others, such as solid animal fats. Studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet consisting of vegetables, whole-grains, beans, fruits, and olive oil lowers the risk of heart disease.
Keeping your sodium intake to less than 2.3 grams of sodium a day lowers the risk of a heart attack.
Encourage your child to get plenty of physical activity along with a healthy dietary plan.
Nutrition and activity tips
Suggestions for heart-healthy eating include:
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. Teach them to make healthy choices by providing opportunities to select foods based on their nutritional value.
Select foods with these important nutrients when possible: vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. Select foods with these nutrients when possible.
Most Americans need to reduce the number of calories they consume. When it comes to weight control, calories do count. Controlling portion sizes and eating nonprocessed 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 screen time to less than 2 hours daily and encourage activities that need more movement.
Children and teens need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days for 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 2015–2020 and to determine the appropriate dietary recommendations for your child’s age, gender, and physical activity level, visit the Online Resources page for the links to the ChooseMyPlate.gov and 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines sites. Please note that the MyPlate plan is designed for people older than age 2 who do not have chronic health conditions.
Always talk with your child’s healthcare provider regarding his or her healthy diet and exercise requirements.
Guidelines for decreasing fat intake
Increase intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Bake, broil, or grill foods instead of frying.
Choose low-fat meats, like chicken, fish, turkey, lean pork, and lean beef (meat without visible fat and without skin).
Limit high-fat meats, like sausage, bacon, hot dogs, salami, pepperoni, bologna, and fried meat.
Use fruits as dessert instead of high-fat desserts, like ice cream, cake, cookies.
Limit amounts of added fat, like margarine, butter, oil, salad dressing, and mayonnaise.
Use low-fat or fat-free products, like milk, cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, and 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% 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% 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) or low-fat
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
Butter, lard, shortening, bacon fat, regular mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, salad dressings, coconut oil, palm kernel, palm oil, and products with trans fats
Unsaturated oils: safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, canola, olive, peanut
Low-fat or nonfat mayonnaise, margarine, sour cream, cream cheese, and salad dressings
Refined grains (white flour, white rice), biscuits, cornbread, muffins, pancakes, breakfast pastries, doughnuts, waffles, granolas, fried rice, and packaged pasta and rice mixes
Whole-grain breads, pasta, rice, and cereals
Vegetables (dark green, red and orange, legumes, beans and peas, starchy vegetables, and other vegetables)
Vegetables fried or prepared with butter, cheese, cream sauce; or salt, olives
Fresh, frozen, or canned, without added fat, salt, or sauce
Fruit (whole, cut up, pureed, and 100% fruit juice)
Fried fruit or fruit served with butter or cream sauce
Fresh, frozen, canned, or dried