AHA Dietary Recommendations for Kids
Joe Kim, M.D., HealthAtoZ Writer
It's a fact: more and more children in the United States are becoming overweight and obese. Because of this problem, the American Heart Association (AHA) updated the Dietary Recommendations for Children and Adolescents in September 2005. The American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) agrees with these recommendations.
Diet and Exercise
Kids are eating unbalanced meals made up of high-calorie foods, and they aren't exercising enough. Children can easily get their hands on junk food, candy and fried foods, and these poor eating habits follow them into adulthood. Instead of playing outdoor sports, kids are watching TV or playing computer games.
As a result, an alarming number of children are gaining weight and developing weight-related health problems as young adults. Common problems include heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The AHA reports that 75 percent to 90 percent of heart disease cases are related to these problems. Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States.
Based on Studies
Studies show that heart disease begins in childhood. Young people don't usually think about what they're eating and how it might affect their health, but this attitude needs to change.
The AHA urges children to eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish and lean meats. They also suggest less time in front of the TV or computer screen and more time exercising and playing sports.
Specific Recommendations by the AHA:
- Drink fewer sugar-sweetened drinks.
- Use unsaturated oils (like canola or corn oil) instead of solid fats (like butter or margarine) when cooking.
- Use the portion sizes recommended on labels when serving food.
- Serve vegetables and fruits at every meal.
- Eat fish twice a week.
- Remove the skin before eating chicken or turkey.
- Use lean cuts of meat and reduced-fat meat.
- Limit high-calorie sauces.
- Eat more whole-grain breads and cereals.
- Eat more beans and tofu and less meat.
- Choose high-fiber, low-salt, low-sugar substitutes.
- Balance dietary calories with physical activity.
- Engage in physical activity for 60 minutes daily.
- Limit TV and computer time to less than two hours per day.
- Use non-fat (skim) or low-fat milk and dairy products daily.
Children need help deciding which foods to choose, how many calories to take in and how much physical activity they need. If the entire family works together within these guidelines, we can hope for healthier children who will in-turn, become healthier adults.