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Heart Healthy Eating and Living

What is heart-healthy eating?

A diet high in fat and cholesterol may contribute to the development of heart disease in adulthood. A heart-healthy diet may help prevent or treat high blood cholesterol levels.

The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition recommends that healthy children age 2 and older follow a diet low in fat (30% of calories from fat). These are the same recommendations for healthy adults. A diet high in fat, especially saturated fat, may increase your child’s risk for heart disease and obesity in adulthood.

It is important to teach your child about healthy eating so that he or she can make healthy food choices as adults.

What is saturated fat?

Saturated fat is a type of fat found in foods and is usually solid at room temperature. This type of fat may raise the body’s total blood cholesterol level more than other types of fat. It is recommended to limit saturated fat and replace it with unsaturated fat to help decrease the risk for heart disease. Some of the main sources of saturated fat include the following:

  • Butter
  • Cheeses
  • Fatty meats (bacon, hot dogs, ribs, and sausage)
  • Chicken skin
  • Whole milk
  • Ice cream
  • Pizza
  • Grain and dairy based desserts
  • Coconut oil
  • Palm oil

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is made by the body and found in some foods. Cholesterol found in foods is called dietary cholesterol and is found only in animal foods, like the following:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products

Plant foods (grains, fruits, and vegetables) do not contain cholesterol. If the body’s blood cholesterol gets too high, then cholesterol may build up in the blood vessels and cause damage.

Making Healthy Food Choices

The My Plate icon is a guideline to help you and your child eat a healthy diet. The USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the following food plate to guide parents in selecting foods for children age 2 and older.

The My Plate icon is divided into 5 food group categories, emphasizing the nutritional intake of the following:

  • Grains. Foods made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain are grain products. Make at least half of your grains whole grains. Examples of whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, and oatmeal.
  • Vegetables. Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red, and orange vegetables, legumes (dry beans and peas), and starchy vegetables. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Fruits. Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut up, or pureed.
  • Dairy. Milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group. Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk products, as well as those that are high in calcium.
  • Protein. Go lean with protein. Choose low-fat or lean cuts of meat and poultry. Vary your protein routine by choosing more fish, nuts, seeds, dried beans and peas.

Keeping your sodium intake to less than 2.3 grams of sodium a day lowers the risk of a heart attack.

Exercise and everyday physical activity should also be included with a healthy dietary plan.

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Click here to take our heart health quiz.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Nguyen to get your heart checked call 504-897-8276

Dr. Thanh Nguyen grew up in Baton Rouge and is Vietnam-born. He chose to specialize in cardiology for its emphasis on physiology and the instant impact that cardiovascular procedures can have. As an interventional cardiologist, he performs both minor surgical procedures, such as pacemaker insertion to regulate irregular heart rhythms, and nonsurgical procedures, including balloon angioplasties and stent placement to improve blood flow to and from the heart.

He supervises cardiology fellows at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. To become interventional cardiologists, fellows must complete one to two years of training in addition to their three-year general cardiology fellowships.