As parents of young children, the concern about what our kids eat is a thing we deal with on a daily basis. When they’re still in the toddler/preschool stages, we have a lot more control over their food and drink choices but once they’re sent off to school, all bets are off. The hope we all cling to is that we’ve laid enough of a foundation in healthy eating habits and that we’ve clearly communicated to our kids the reasons why it’s important to make nutritious food choices.
That’s the hope, of course. However, we moms know from experience that the instructions and directions that we give to our kids don’t always get absorbed or followed as completely as we’d like them to. Add peer pressure into the mix and the likelihood that our kids will follow-through on healthy food choices becomes even more dicey.
Many of us try to counteract the junky foods our kids get to have on “special occasions,” birthday parties and from shared lunches at school with providing healthier choices at home. This effort is especially important in times when child obesity rates in the U.S. are at the highest levels they’ve ever been. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity rates have more than tripled since the 1970s.
Because of these statistics, many people focus on the weight aspect of healthy eating and parents don’t generally ask questions about their kids’ cholesterol levels during routine wellness checks. But even when your kids are very young, cholesterol levels are an important consideration in their overall health picture. They may also be an indicator of whether or not your kids will struggle with weight and health issues in the future.
Habits that Help Lower LDL Cholesterol Levels
LDL cholesterol, known as the “bad” fats, are the low-density lipoproteins that can build up in the walls of the arteries leading to the heart and brain. Too much of this type of cholesterol in the blood can lead to dangerous blockages in the blood vessels, eventually making kids and adults prone to heart disease or heart attacks. So, the ultimate goal is to keep LDL cholesterol levels low. Ways to do this include:
— Getting regular cholesterol screening to monitor cholesterol levels. Pediatricians recommend that screenings for kids should begin between ages 10 and 12.
— Incorporating some form of exercise into daily life
— Bake foods instead of frying them
— Limiting the consumption of foods that are high in LDL cholesterol levels
— Cook with canola and olive oils instead of vegetable oils
Foods that Keep Your Kids in the “Good” HDL Cholesterol Range
High Density Lipoproteins (HDL), are also referred to as “good” fats. These are the proteins that you want higher levels of in your system. For kids between the ages of 2 and 20, the total cholesterol level should be at 170 or below, says the American Heart Association. Foods that can help you to stay in this healthy HDL cholesterol range include:
— Lean white meats, such as chicken and pork
— Fruit, especially berries
— Dark chocolate
— Peanut butter
— Whole grains
— High fiber foods, as found in some cereals
— Soy products
Monitoring your child’s diet and helping them to maintain healthy eating and lifestyle habits may sometimes feel like an endless struggle. You may view it as a chore that you don’t think your kids really “get” or appreciate at all. Although you might be battling constant eye-rolling, sneak snack attacks and playdate binges, consistent healthy lifestyle modeling at home is a key factor in whether or not your kids really take these messages to heart and begin to mimic the behavior as they get older. And remember, the exhausting, and sometimes tough, chore of staying on message when it comes to healthy eating is ultimately about setting your child up for a future where they’re less prone to a variety of possibly debilitating and life-shortening conditions such as diabetes, high-blood pressure and heart disease.