High Cholesterol in Kids and Teens

How to Control Unhealthy Cholesterol Levels in Kids and Teens

A mother and daughter have breakfast.
A mother and daughter have breakfast.. Compassionate Eye Foundation/Rob Daly/OJO Images Ltd/Getty Images

Concerned about high cholesterol in your child or teen? You are not alone. Medical professionals have observed a problematic increase in cholesterol levels in young people in recent years, coinciding with the general rise in obesity in the America.

High cholesterol levels in young people are concerning because they can set the stage for a lifetime of health problems, including an increased risk for heart disease, heart attack or stroke.

Foods That Raise Cholesterol

It isn't simply dietary cholesterol that should be avoided to lower total cholesterol levels in kids and teens, says Suzanne Rostler, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian in private practice in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and co-author of the book "Ending the Food Fight."

More important, says Rostler, is looking at what foods in your—and your children's—diet have saturated fat. Saturated fat has a bigger impact on your cholesterol levels than does cholesterol found in food. It's found in meat (especially marbled meat), poultry skin, and full-fat dairy, including cheese and butter. Trans fats, a type of fat found in commercial baked goods, are particularly bad for your cholesterol: they lower HDL, the "good" cholesterol, and raise LDL, the "bad" cholesterol.

Foods That Lower Cholesterol

In addition to cutting back on saturated fat, there are many foods you and your kids can add to your diet that help to lower cholesterol.

These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans, which are all good sources of fiber—a component of food that can help lower unhealthy cholesterol. Healthy fats, in particular omega-3s, also help to lower "bad" LDL cholesterol. Replace butter with canola or olive oil; choose fish instead of red meat at least a couple times a week; use nut butter or avocado on toast.

What Parents Can Do

When you're trying to add cholesterol-lowering foods and cut back on foods that raise cholesterol, it pays to plan. Have healthy foods available for snacks: cut up vegetables ahead of time so they're ready to grab-and-go. Keep plain lowfat Greek yogurt on hand: it makes a healthy base for fruit or vegetable dips. Limit snacks like chips and crackers made with refined grains; refocus snacks on healthy whole foods.

Cholesterol-Friendly Meals for Kids

Nees some cholesterol-friendly meal ideas and recipes? Look no further:

Breakfasts

Peach Oatmeal (contains walnuts)

Crockpot Apple Oatmeal (use low-fat milk)

Tropical Fruit Smoothie

Lunches and Dinners

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Turkey Wraps (Omit Bacon, and use whole-wheat tortilla)

Tuna and Macaroni (Use light mayonnaise instead of regular mayonnaise, and water-packed tuna instead of oil-packed. Use whole wheat macaroni).

Snacks

Frozen Fruit Pops

Quick Fruit Dip

Peanut Butter Balls

Garlic Hummus With Pita Wedges

Remember that children of any age should never be encouraged to "diet" or follow a special meal pattern unless directed to do so by a physician.

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