Turn Your Child’s Diet Into a Diet That Can Help To Prevent Heart Disease Later In Life, Starting Now! (Recipes Included)

Heart Healthy Lingo

Before we start into the foods and nutrients that are part of a heart healthy diet, let’s look into some words that will help you to understand why these foods are (or aren’t) heart healthy.

  • LDL Cholesterol– LDL cholesterol is also known as “bad cholesterol.” LDL cholesterol can cause the build up of plaque in arteries and can narrow the arteries, leading to a decrease in blood flow. Higher levels of LDL cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease. LDL cholesterol should be less than 100.
  • HDL Cholesterol -HDL cholesterol is also known as “good cholesterol.” HDL cholesterol helps remove bad cholesterol from the body. Higher HDL levels have been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease. HDL levels should be above 60.
  • Total Cholesterol -Total cholesterol is a combined measurement of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and other compounds. Total cholesterol should be below 200.
  • Triglycerides -Triglycerides are a type of fat in the body. High triglycerides and high LDL cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease. Triglycerides should be less than 150.

What does heart healthy eating look like?

There are many nutrients that can help or hurt when it comes to heart healthy eating. We’ll explore these foods and nutrients in the following pages!

Fats, The first thing most people think of when thinking of heart healthy eating is fats.

Here’s what you need to know when it comes to fats in your child’s diet

Saturated Fats What is it?

-Saturated fats are a type of fat that is solid at room temperature and can increase blood cholesterol more than any other type of fat. Where is it found? Fatty cuts of meats, dairy and dairy products made with whole and 2% milk, butter, lard, ice cream, coconut oil, palm oil.

How much should my child consume?

-Foods high in saturated fat (listed above) should be limited in children over 2 years old. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend that less than 10% of calories come from saturated fats.

Unsaturated Fats What is it?

-Unsaturated fats are either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated. Both types do not raise cholesterol and can help to lower cholesterol when they are used in place of saturated and trans fats. Where is it found?- Polyunsaturated: Sunflower, corn, soy, and safflower oils, salmon, and trout Monounsaturated: Olive, canola, and peanut oils, avocados, and nuts.

How much should my child consume?

-Most of the fats that your child consumes should come from unsaturated fats. Fats are necessary for growth and development and should not be restricted in children under 2 years of age.

Healthy Eating Tip of the Month Trans Fats What is it?

-Trans fats are fats made during hydrogenation, a process used to keep polyunsaturated fats solid at room temperature and to make the fats last longer. Trans fats raise LDL and increase the risk of heart disease. Where is it found? Deep-fried foods (French fries, doughnuts), baked goods (cookies, cakes, crackers, pies, muffins), margarine, and shortening. Trans fats are also found naturally in small amounts in beef, pork, lamb, butter, and milk.

How much should my child consume?

-Foods with trans fats should be limited; aim for your child to eat as little as possible.

Cholesterol What is it?

-Cholesterol is a wax-like substance that the body makes for normal body functions. Cholesterol is also found in certain foods. Too much cholesterol can contribute to heart disease. Where is it found? Eggs (specifically egg yolks), dairy and dairy products, meats, poultry, and shellfish How much should my child consume? Cholesterol should be limited to 300 milligrams daily. However, cholesterol should not be restricted in children under 2 years of age since it is necessary for growth and development.

Sodium What is it?

-Sodium, also known as salt or sodium chloride, is a necessary compound for many body functions. However, too much sodium can increase blood pressure. Where is it found? Processed foods (lunch meats, sausages, canned foods, salted nuts, frozen dinners, ketchup, salad dressings, sauces, and chips)

How much should my child consume?

-Sodium intake should be less than 2,300 milligrams each day.

Healthy Eating Tip of the Month Fiber What is it?

-Fiber is a food component that the body cannot digest or absorb. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. While insoluble fiber is important in preventing constipation and decreasing the risk of colon cancer, soluble fiber helps with cholesterol levels. Diets high in fiber can lower LDL cholesterol. Where is it found? Whole grains, fruits (with skin!), vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

How much should my child consume?

-Aim for at least half of your child’s grains to be whole grains (from the sources listed above).

Omega 3 What is it?

-Omega 3 fatty acids are fats that the body needs to carry out normal body functions. The body cannot make these fats, so these fats need to come from the diet. Omega 3 fats have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Where is it found? Fatty fish (salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel, and sardines)

How much should my child consume?

-Encourage your child to eat 2 servings of fish each week. TIP: Look for breads that have “whole-wheat” as the first ingredient. These breads are made from whole grains and contain more fiber. Also, try brown rice, barley, and whole-wheat pasta in recipes for even more fiber! The FDA recommends that children’s intake of fish be limited to 2 servings per week due to the potential for mercury content. Make sure to avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish due to high mercury content.



Modifying Recipes

There are many ways to change a recipe to make it heart healthy. Use this chart of substitutions to help you modify your favorite recipes! Print this chart out and post on the refrigerator for easy access!


Heart Healthy Substitutions

Ingredient  (Butter) ————– Substitution (Vegetable oil or tub (soft) margarine)

Ingredient (Whole milk)————————————- Substitution (Fat-free milk)

Ingredient (Whole eggs)—————————-Substitution (2 egg whites per 1 egg)

Ingredient (Cream) —————————- Substitution ( Evaporated fat-free milk )

Ingredient  (Cheese)————————————–Substitution ( Part-skim cheese)

Ingredient(Mayonnaise/salad dressing )——–Substitution ( Fat-free salad dressing)

Ingredient(Sour Cream)—–Substitution ( Yogurt or cottage cheese with lemon juice)

Ingredient(Salt)——————————————–Substitution (Herbs and spices)

Ingredient (Garlic or onion salt )——————Substitution (Garlic or onion powder)

Ingredient (Canned foods/soups )———-Substitution (Salt-free or reduced-sodium canned foods/soups)

Ingredient(Lunch meats, ham, bacon, hot dogs, sausage)——-Substitution(Fresh meats, low-sodium lunch meats)


Making Better Food Choices

Simple changes to the food your child eats can make a big difference! Try to switch some of your child’s usual foods with healthier options.


  • Eat less of : Meats Beef, pork, lamb, fatty cuts of meat Fried meats, poultry, and fish;
  • Instead, eat more of: Lean cuts of meat Poultry without skin Fish Nuts, seeds, tofu, dried beans Baked, broiled, roasted, or stewed meats, fish, and poultry;


  • Eat less of : Whole and 2% milk, Whole milk yogurt, Regular cheeses, Regular ice cream;
  • Instead, eat more of : Skim and low-fat milk, Nonfat or low-fat yogurt, Nonfat or low-fat cheese, Nonfat or low-fat ice cream and frozen yogurt;

Fats and oils 

  • Eat less of : Butter, lard, mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, salad dressings, coconut oil, palm oil;
  • Instead, eat more of : Canola, olive, soybean, peanut, and safflower oils Fat-free or low-fat mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, and salad dressings;


  • Eat less of : Refined grains, fried rice, biscuits, cornbread, waffles, pancakes, muffins;
  • Instead, eat more of : Whole-grain breads and pastas, brown rice, cereals without added fat;


  • Eat less of : Fried vegetables Vegetables with cream sauce, butter, and cheese;
  • Instead, eat more of: Fresh, frozen, or canned (no salt added) vegetables without sauce;


  • Eat less of : Fried fruit, Fruit with cream sauce or butter;
  • Instead, eat more of : Fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits;


Recipes -Want to try some new heart healthy recipes that both you and your child will like? Here are just a few to get you started…

Garden Turkey Meatloaf

Makes 4 – 2 slice servings

  • 2 cups assorted vegetables, chopped (try mushrooms, zucchini, red peppers, and spinach)
  • 12 oz 99% lean ground turkey
  • ½ cup whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup fat-free evaporated milk
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tsp dried chives
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • Nonstick cooking spray

For glaze:

  • 1 Tbsp ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard


1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Steam or lightly sauté the assortment of vegetables.

3. Combine vegetables and the rest of the meatloaf ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray, and spread meatloaf mixture evenly in the pan.

4. Combine glaze ingredients. Brush glaze on top of the meatloaf.

5. Bake meatloaf in the oven for 45–50 minutes (to a minimum internal temperature of 165 ºF).

6. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into eight even slices.

Recipe source: Deliciously Healthy Family Meals, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute


Quick Beef Casserole

Makes 8 – 1½ cup servings

  • ½ lb lean ground beef
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 cup green bell pepper, rinsed, seeded, and cubed
  • 3½ cups tomatoes, rinsed and diced (or no-salt added canned tomatoes)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 small carrots, rinsed, peeled, and diced
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1½ cup water


1. In a sauté pan, brown the ground beef. Drain off the extra fat by tilting the sauté pan over a disposable cup in the sink to collect the fat. Use the lid to shield the meat from falling out. After the fat has turned solid, discard the cup in the trash.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the sauté pan, and mix well.

3. Cover sauté pan with lid, and cook over medium heat until boiling.

4. Reduce to low heat and simmer for 35 minutes. Serve hot.

Recipe source: Deliciously Healthy Family Meals, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute


Pita Pizzas

Makes 4 pizzas

  • 1 cup low sodium pizza sauce
  • 1 cup grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced (about 2 small breasts)
  • 1 cup broccoli, rinsed, chopped, and cooked
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp fresh basil, rinsed, dried, and chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 4 (6½-inch) whole-wheat pitas


1. Preheat oven or toaster oven to 450 °F.

2. For each pizza, spread ¼ cup tomato sauce on a pita and top with ¼ cup chicken, ¼ cup broccoli, ½ tablespoon parmesan cheese, and ¼ tablespoon chopped basil.

3. Place pitas on a nonstick baking sheet and bake for about 5–8 minutes until golden brown and chicken is heated through. Serve immediately.

Recipe source: Deliciously Healthy Family Meals, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute