A healthy diet can contain some levels of cholesterol, but ingesting too much can lead to health issues. The best way to control the amount of cholesterol your family consumes is through their meals. Cholesterol is only found in animal-based foods, such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, so choose meals built around plant-based foods for a low-cholesterol diet. Some cholesterol is essential to bodily functions, but your body creates all the cholesterol it needs without added supplies from food.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that naturally occurs in your body. When too much builds up in your blood, it can stick to the walls of your arteries, hardening them and causing your heart to work harder. Over time, this build-up can lead to heart disease.
The Mayo Clinic's number one cholesterol-lowering food -- oatmeal -- is a quick, easy and healthy breakfast choice. Oatmeal is rich in fiber, which inhibits cholesterol absorption, and it tastes great when served with a splash of non-fat milk and a handful of berries. Add a drizzle of honey to satisfy the kids' sweet tooth. Eggs are a favorite breakfast food for many, but they their yolks contain high levels of cholesterol. For a hearty breakfast that provides protein but not cholesterol, make white-only scrambled eggs topped with a sprinkle of low-fat cheese or a handful of pre-chopped veggies. You can still make the kids their morning pancakes; just replace each whole egg in a recipe with two egg whites and a splash of vegetable oil and use non-fat milk instead of whole milk.
For a low-to-no cholesterol lunch, pass on greasy, deep-fried foods, which tend to be high in cholesterol and saturated fats. Instead, grab a whole grain bagel and slather it with high-protein, no-cholesterol hummus. Add some cucumbers for that crunchy texture that kids crave. Instead of high-cholesterol chips, serve carrots or celery sticks. If your kids are craving a burger, try a slice of portabella or a lean turkey patty. Add creamy dressing and the kids might not even notice the difference. Skip French fries in favor of sweet potato slices. For added convenience, cut the potatoes into narrow strips ahead of time and pop them in the toaster oven with a light coating of olive oil and a squeeze of lime juice.
Upping your family's fish consumption is a great way to consume less cholesterol. Grill or bake fish instead of frying for the most benefits. For an easy, kid-friendly fish meal, cut a firm whitefish into finger-sized portions, roll in crushed croutons and bake. If your kids crave macaroni and cheese, replace full-fat cheese with a low-fat variety and use nonfat milk instead of whole. On the side, choose mildly flavored vegetables that kids can eat with their fingers, such as corn on the cob, lightly roasted carrots or steamed zucchini cut into kid-friendly circles. Many kids love cornbread, especially when it's baked in mini-muffin pans. Make a low-cholesterol version of this easy-to-bake bread by replacing whole eggs with egg whites and using margarine and low-fat buttermilk.
Your family can still enjoy dessert without consuming excessive amount of cholesterol. If your kids love baked goods, replace the called-for oil with pureed fruits or vegetables. Many can be pureed ahead of time and frozen in serving-size portions for later use. Applesauce, pureed pears and mashed bananas add sweetness, while pureed zucchini blends seamlessly into many baked goods. For cool, creamy desserts, use non-fat milk in pudding mixes and choose fat-free whipped cream.
- North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service; Become More Healthy in the Foods You Eat... Cholesterol; Jacquelyn W. McClelland, et al.; February 2006
- National Institutes of Health, National Cholesterol Education Program: High Blood Cholesterol; What You Need to Know; June 2005
- Mayo Clinic; Cholesterol; Top 5 Foods to Lower Your Numbers; May 2010
- American Heart Association; Cooking for Lower Cholesterol; June 2011
- National Institutes of Health; Heart Healthy Home Cooking African American Style; May 2008
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