Common Concerns

New Dietary Guidelines for Children

In September 2005, the American Heart Association (AHA) updated the dietary guidelines for children. The update is the result of the increasing incidence of childhood obesity over the past 20 years. The risk factors associated with obesity include heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and a number of cancers. Establishing good eating habits in children at a very young age and including healthy lifestyle practices such as regular exercise and avoiding junk food can work to lower the risks of obesity.

The AHA recommends starting healthy eating habits in infancy, with an emphasis on breastfeeding and starting adult foods with healthy vegetables.

Dietary recommendations from the AHA for youngsters over 2 years old include the following:

  • 2 servings of fish weekly are recommended.
  • Discretionary and essential calories are clearly distinct to account for different levels of physical activity. The discretionary caloric intake increase recommended for physical activity ranges from 100 to 150 calories to 200 to 500 calories.
  • Pediatric studies confirm adult studies’ conclusions that restricting saturated fat intake from 10 to 7 percent may reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by as much as 16 percent.
  • Total fat intake in children may be restricted to less than 30 percent daily with no adverse effects on growth, neurological development, metabolic function, and nutrient adequacy observed.
  • Caloric estimates with serving sizes provided in a table are based on age group (1 year, 2-3 years, 4-8 years, 9-13 years and 14-18 years), consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.
  • Guidelines for 1-year-old children include 2 percent-fat milk instead of fat-free milk.



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