Kids need some fat in their diets to fuel their growth and development. The American Heart Association recommends that children age 4 to 18 obtain 25 to 35 percent of their calories from fat. The American Academy of Pediatrics deems low-fat, low-cholesterol diets safe for children older than 2. Offer toddlers and preschoolers low-fat and low-cholesterol foods so that by the time they are school-aged they can begin to make their own healthful food choices. A study by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School found that teens with borderline- to high-cholesterol levels safely lowered their cholesterol when they followed a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.
Give kids a jump start to their day with a healthful breakfast. Start with whole grain toast or a bowl of oatmeal and add a side of fresh fruit and some lean protein. Scrambled eggs made with egg whites or egg substitute pack a lot of protein with very little fat or cholesterol. Top eggs with a shake of dry dressing and seasoning mix to give them a flavor boost. Choose skim milk and low-fat or nonfat yogurt for healthful sources of protein, calcium and vitamin D. Processed meats tend to be higher in fat and cholesterol. Ham, Canadian bacon and turkey bacon are leaner choices. Or, opt for vegetarian sausage.
Keep lunch offerings low in fat and cholesterol by serving lean protein and dairy, whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Opt for low-fat choices, such as ham or turkey for deli meat sandwiches. Tuna or chicken salad makes a healthful sandwich filling when made with light or fat-free creamy salad dressing. Peanut butter spread on bread, apples or celery contains unsaturated fats and is a good source of low-cholesterol protein. For a hot lunch entrée, try broth-based vegetable soups with lean meats or pasta with tomato sauce seasoned with a dash of dry dressing and dip mix. Include whole or cut-up fruits such as apples, pears, oranges or berries and raw vegetables served with a light dip.
Replace less healthful kid favorites like fried fish sticks and chicken nuggets with grilled or baked skinless chicken breast or lean fish fillets and serve with a low-fat dipping sauces. For busy days when there is no time to cook, pick up a roasted chicken from the supermarket deli and remove the skin before carving. Select lean cuts of beef from the round with little or no fat marbling. When buying pork or lamb, choose cuts from the loin. Trim visible fat and use low-fat cooking methods, such as baking, grilling or roasting. For dishes with ground meat, substitute leaner ground chicken or turkey for beef. To dramatically slash fat and cholesterol from you dinner menu, replace meat with tofu or beans. Serve vegetables raw, steamed or cooked in the microwave to eliminate the need for butter or oil and use a sprinkle of dry dressing and dip mix for seasoning. Round out the meal with a serving of cooked grains, rice or potatoes.
Snacks and Treats
Don’t let snack time derail your efforts to stick to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Offer kid-friendly items, such as baked chips, pretzels, graham crackers, fresh fruits and yogurt to keep little ones satisfied between meals. Kids and adults both like to have a little treat now and then. Avoid banning unhealthful foods completely; kids tend to want foods even more if they are forbidden. Incorporate treats, such as cookies, ice cream and potato chips, into a well-balanced, low-fat, low-cholesterol diet by consuming them in small portions, occasionally.
- American Heart Association: Dietary Recommendations for Healthy Children
- American Academy of Pediatrics; Growing Up Healthy: Fat, Cholesterol and More; 2008
- University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey: Kids Test Low Fat Diets
- University of Massachusetts Medical School: Low-fat/Low-Cholesterol Diet
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