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Cholesterol and Children (cont.)

Dietary Guidelines for Lowering Cholesterol in Children

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends dietary steps to lower cholesterol as follows:

  • Children younger than 2 years of age should not be restricted from foods containing fat or cholesterol. Their rapid growth and development require high-energy intakes from food.
  • Children 2-5 years through 18 years of age should gradually adopt a diet that contains no less than 20% and no more than 30% of calories from fat. Less than 10% of total calories should come from saturated fat. Children should eat no more than 300 mg per day of cholesterol (when it is present in foods). As children eat fewer calories from fat, they should replace those calories by eating more grain products, fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk and other calcium-rich foods, beans, lean meat, poultry, fish, or other protein-rich foods. Children should be given a wide range of foods to make sure they recieve all the nutrients they need from a variety of foods.

This Step I Diet should be followed for at least 3 months. If cholesterol testing at that time does not show LDL cholesterol in an acceptable range, the child's health care professional may recommend a more restrictive Step 2 Diet.

The Step 2 Diet requires detailed assessment of current eating patterns. Sometimes counseling with a health care professional or registered dietitian helps the family adjust. This Step 2 Diet restricts saturated fats to less than 7% of total calories from fat and no more than 200 mg per day of cholesterol in food. This eating pattern requires careful planning to make sure your child is getting the right balance of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

Changes in diet that lower fat, particularly saturated fat, and cholesterol levels, combined with regular exercise and avoidance of smoking, have been shown to improve high cholesterol and LDL levels in children and teens. The good news is that if these changes are carried into adult life, they may reduce your child's risk for coronary heart disease.

If you help your child reduce total cholesterol levels and LDL, you can greatly lower the risk for coronary heart disease.

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