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Food Basics

Heart-healthy changes for your child's diet:

If your child is trying to make heart-healthy changes to his/her lifestyle and diet, it is helpful to know some basics about nutrition, starting with the components of food.

Facts about calories:
  • If your child takes in more calories than he/she burns, he/she gains weight.
  • If your child take in fewer calories than he/she burns, he/she loses weight.
  • If your child balances the two, he/she maintains his/her weight.

Even when your child is dieting, calories should not be cut back so much that his/her energy needs are not met. The number of calories he/she needs depends primarily on age, gender, and activity level.

Facts about dietary cholesterol:
Remember: "cholesterol-free" does not mean "fat-free."

Dietary cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in all foods of animal origin: egg yolks, meat, poultry, fish, milk, and milk products.

Because our bodies make cholesterol, it is not required in our diets. However, because most people eat foods that contain cholesterol, it is important to avoid excessive amounts. The amount of cholesterol your child consumes can affect his/her blood cholesterol levels.

Facts about fats:
All fats contain about the same number of calories - teaspoon for teaspoon. There is no low-fat fat.

Fat is the most concentrated source of calories, supplying more than twice as many calories per gram as either carbohydrates or proteins. Most children tend to get far too much fat in their diets, which contributes to health problems such as obesity, high blood cholesterol, and heart disease. While coconut and palm oils contain no cholesterol, they are high in saturated fat and should be avoided.

Types of fats:

Fatty acids are the basic chemical units in fat. They may be saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, or trans fats. These fatty acids differ in their chemical compositions and structures, and in the way in which they affect your child's blood cholesterol levels, according to the following:

Total fat intake should be no more than 30 percent of your child's daily calorie intake.

Facts about fiber:
Fiber is the indigestible portion of food. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
  • soluble fiber - found in such foods as oat bran and dried beans, can lower blood cholesterol in some people.
  • insoluble fiber - found in foods such as wheat bran, has many benefits. While this type of fiber has not been found to lower cholesterol, it is useful in weight control because it creates a feeling of fullness.
Facts about sodium:

Although salt is the major contributor of sodium in our diets, sodium and salt are not the same, contrary to popular belief. A teaspoon of table salt contains 2,300 milligrams of sodium.

Sodium is a mineral needed to maintain body fluids and proper nerve function. It occurs naturally in some foods, but most of the sodium in our diets comes from seasonings and ingredients we add to foods. Although sodium is essential, most of us consume more than we need. In some people, too much sodium in the diet can cause the blood pressure to rise, increasing the risk of heart disease or stroke.

Click here to view the
Online Resources of Cardiovascular Disorders

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