Most children with congenital or acquired heart disease do not need a special diet. However, some children with heart problems need to follow dietary guidelines. For example, infants with significant heart problems may have difficulty gaining weight before corrective surgery. These children may need a high calorie formula. Older children with severe heart problems may need to limit the amount of sodium (salt) they eat and/or the amount of liquid they drink.

Today there is a need for all children to improve their diets. Children and adolescents may be obese or have abnormally high cholesterol (fatty substances) in the blood. Obesity complicates the existing heart disease and may cause other health problems. High cholesterol may contribute to the development of coronary artery diseases in later life. If children already have congenital or acquired heart disease, it is important for them to avoid these additional complications.

When special dietary guidelines need to be followed, there are people who can help. Physicians, nurses and dietitians are available to make suggestions.

General recommendations for your family to follow to help avoid high cholesterol are listed below:

  • Use lean to medium fatty meats and poultry whenever possible; trim off excess fat and skin before cooking
  • Serve fish frequently
  • When frying, use corn, safflower, olive or canola oils
  • Limit the number of whole eggs eaten each week; eat egg substitutes or egg whites more often
  • Serve 1 percent milk or skim milk to children older than 2 years of age
  • Select cheeses labeled “low fat” or “skim processed” whenever available; avoid high-fat cheeses such as Colby and processed American cheeses

If you would like additional information about ways to reduce or limit cholesterol intake, you can contact a registered dietitian at Children’s Hospital.