Just as it is in adults, high cholesterol can be a real problem in children. High levels of cholesterol early in life can lead to plenty of health problems, such as heart disease and stroke, later on. Heredity, weight and diet can all cause high cholesterol in children. In the case of most children and teenagers with high cholesterol, a healthy diet is the best treatment option.
Enter the Whole Grains, Fruits and Vegetables
A diet suitable for children with high cholesterol is full of vegetables and fruits as well as whole grains. For instance, for breakfast, trade in your child’s boxed, sugary cereal for a bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with berries. For lunch, serve him a peanut butter and jam sandwich on whole wheat bread. Stick with lean proteins, such as chicken or fish as a main course for dinner, accompanied by plenty of vegetables and a salad. Baby carrots, celery sticks and sliced apples are perfect snacks.
Exit the Fat
One of the main causes of high cholesterol in children in is a diet high in fat. Keep an eye on the amount and types of fat you are giving your child. Children over age two should get no more than 30 percent of their daily calories from fat, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Trade in whole milk for 1 percent or skim and try giving your children low-fat cheese. If you bake, trade in butter in cookies for plant-based oils, such as canola or grapeseed, which are low in saturated fats and high in healthy unsaturated ones.
Getting Outside Help
Nutritional counseling may be a good step to take to help you prepare healthy meals and snacks for your children and to help your children learn how to make healthy eating choices. Meeting with a registered dietitian can also help your child safely lose extra weight and can help him maintain a healthy weight.
In addition to feeding your child a healthy, low-fat diet, you should encourage him to exercise regularly. Aerobic exercise such as bicycling, swimming or running will help improve your child’s heart health by raising the level of his good HDL cholesterol. It will also help him shed excess pounds if he is overweight. If he isn’t interested in participating in sports or traditional outdoor exercise, Dr. Julie Brothers of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia recommends getting him to exercise with a video game that requires activity and movement.
When Diet Isn’t Enough
Most children with high cholesterol will see an improvement in numbers thanks to an improvement in diet and exercise. In rare cases, though, a child may need medication to help lower his cholesterol. According to Dr. Brothers, 1 in 500 children have high cholesterol due to genetic causes, which require statin-lowering drugs to treat. Cholesterol lowering drugs are only approved for children over age 8.