This is a guest post by registered dietitian Susan Dopart. Check out her excellent book A Recipe for Life for more tips and recipes.

To learn to love
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Recent studies reveal children with heart disease are not as unusual as you might expect.  Artery autopsies done on children who had fatal accidents showed the presence of fatty streaks.

Although I had knowledge of this phenomenon it still came as a shock to fathom children having fatty streaks and blockages in the arteries.  Isn’t that only supposed to happen to older adults?

Times have changed but I have to wonder if the current philosophy of feeding our youth needs an adjustment.  Where does the solution start?  Will pediatricians start prescribing statin drugs for children to fix the problem of unbalanced eating and inactivity like they do in adults?

Los Angeles Times article “A Sticking Issue with Kids” discusses the Center for Disease Control report which showed that cholesterol abnormalities – i.e. high bad cholesterol and low good cholesterol values – are far more common in children than in past times, particularly overweight children.  The article questioned whether we should start checking children’s cholesterol panels.  Pediatrician’s views are mixed.

When do we start looking at the cause rather than the symptom?  Taking control of our youth’s health and happiness is having time for family dinners, cooking at home, and making meals from whole unprocessed foods.

Our bodies are happy to get rid of bad cholesterol and avoid making plaque when we feed them “clean’ foods in their natural forms.  I hear from parents – “they only want pizza, burgers and fries.”  Who’s controlling the food?  When I was growing up I ate what was served without too many questions.

If I did not like a particular item served I was encouraged to have a few “no thank you” bites.

Many children have aversions to vegetables since they can have strong flavors.  Have your child try a “no thank you” serving each time a different vegetable is served.  A “no thank you” serving is having a bite or two (one or two teaspoons) of something they do not particularly enjoy.

Eating a bite or two of food that is foreign or not to their tastes can change the way they feel about that food over time and starts the conditioning process that nutritious food comes from the ground and not in a package.

Having whole fruits cut up with interesting additions helps satisfy the taste for sweet with natural foods.  Here are some ideas to try:

Healthy Snack Alternatives

1.  Mix vanilla and plain yogurt together and add nuts, sunflower seeds or Healthy Nut Mix
2.  Cheese and apples slices
3.  Hummus and carrots
4.  Sliced apples with spreadable cheese and dried cranberries on top
5.  Celery with natural peanut butter or sunflower butter and a few raisins on top

These healthy snacks can set the tone or change the norm of grabbing processed packaged foods.

Running around on the weekend with our kids and engaging them in outdoor activities is also essential to keeping their little arteries supple and healthy.

It’s not too late to start now.  Even if your child is overweight and has high cholesterol studies show a turnaround is possible in as little as 2 weeks.  The body responds quickly to dietary changes.