Help! My pediatrician just told me my child has high cholesterol!

Help!  My pediatrician just told me my child has high cholesterol!
One of my best friends from high school is a pediatrician and I recently asked what she sees in her practice – kids with high cholesterol.  I have also had calls from pediatrician offices asking if we had handouts I could send over for the kids they were treating with high cholesterol.  If you have been told your child has high cholesterol, then read on.
Cholesterol is made in the liver.  Your body makes all the cholesterol you need but we also get it from the foods we eat.  I tell people that if the food you are eating has a liver, then it also has cholesterol.    So – does peanut butter have cholesterol?  Ask yourself, do peanuts have livers?  NO!  But peanuts do have fat (not to be confused with cholesterol) – the healthy UNsaturated fats for the most part.   Now, what can you do to help your child…
Start at home!  Go through your cupboards, refrigerator/freezer, drawers.  Would you be embarrassed to show your pediatrician what’s in them?  Are they loaded with too many convenience items, candy, junk food, sugary drinks?  If so, you’re not alone!  I am only human as well, I’m sure my pediatrician would turn her nose up at a couple items in our cupboard…  If you do find that you need an overhaul then start with substituting fruits & nuts for your kids snacks.  Or try veggies with a home-made Greek yogurt dip with added spices.  Go check right now if your refrigerator or fruit basket has plenty of fresh fruits and veggies for snacks!
How about school?  What do you put in your kid’s lunch box?  Do they buy their lunch & if so what are they buying?  Are there vending machines with tempting treats that don’t promote healthy choices?  If you aren’t sure, have a conversation (at the dinner table eating a healthy meal full of fruits and/or veggies!) with your child(ren).   What HEALTHY foods would they like?  Go from there.
Add Fiber.  Why?   Fiber acts like glue in your body to attach to cholesterol and flush it out!  That’s why you hear so much about eating steel-cut oatmeal – great fiber!  On a personal note, I fought the oatmeal battle with my kids but they needed way too much brown sugar to finish a bowl.  Instead, I make sure they eat a fruit and/or veggies at every meal.  In the summer I have actually found myself saying they were not allowed any more fruits or veggies or they’d get sick!  Make it a habit for them and for you – as soon as you buy fruits or veggies, wash what you can so it is an easy “grab & go” snack.  Look for bread with 5 grams of fiber per slice – it’s out there & once you find a brand you like your homework is done.  Add lettuce & tomato to sandwiches.  Start small if your kids aren’t used to it.
Got water?  You’ll need it with your increased fiber consumption!  If your kids have chapped lips chances are they are mildly dehydrated.
Which meat?  If you can, go organic.  Grass fed beef including at least 90% lean ground beef.  Avoid skin on chicken/turkey.  Avoid breading.  Avoid cured meats & look for lunch meats or other meats that don’t have nitrates/nitrites – bad stuff.  Try pan frying instead of deep frying.  My kids LOVE meat on the grill or in our rotisserie – the fat just drips off!
Remember all the negative hype about eggs?  Now they are quietly saying studies on the amount of cholesterol in eggs were not accurate.  So can your kids eat eggs if they are not allergic?  YES!  They are a great source of protein, vitamins/minerals, etc.  Do they have cholesterol?  YES!  (remember, chickens have livers!)  but having a few eggs per week isn’t the culprit for high cholesterol!
Try these tips.  Also, get outside with your kids for a game of tag or bike ride or family walk.   Make healthy LIFE choices together and set them up for success!

Lisa Lester

Lisa Lester is a Registered Dietitian with nearly 20 years of experience. She has worked coast to coast in a variety of settings such as cardiac rehab, the Joslin Diabetes Clinic and has lectured to people of all ages. Lisa is a happily married, proud mother of two boys who diligently works to control their food allergies. She loves to try new recipes -- cooking with her sons or just surprising them! Her family truly believes in eating a "Rainbow Diet!"