Feeding children healthy, balanced meals can be a major challenge at times. But your efforts in overcoming this challenge can pay off when it comes to the health of their hearts. What you do today can set their future health status as adults on the right track.
According to government sources, about 10 percent of adolescents, ages 12 to 19, already have high cholesterol levels -- a key risk factor for heart disease.
With better eating habits, you can help reverse the statistics. Making sure children eat a heart-healthy diet is very important -- and many leading health organizations agree.
The best diets for families with children over the age of two should include:
- Foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and total fat;
- A variety of foods for a total diet balanced in carbohydrates, protein and other nutrients; and
- Only enough calories to maintain a healthy weight for one's height and build.
Looking for something simple that can help? Try soft, squeeze or spray margarine spread instead of butter. Since butter contains cholesterol and much more saturated fat, replace the butter with a soft margarine spread that has no cholesterol, no trans fat and 2 or less grams of saturated fat per serving. These kinds of margarine spreads are in step with recommendations from heart-health organizations including the government's National Cholesterol Education Program. According to government sources, it is preferable to use a soft or liquid (squeeze or spray) margarine spread in place of butter as part of a heart-healthy diet.
Margarine spreads consistent with heart-health recommendations are used in these recipes that the whole family can enjoy. Not only are the Sweet Spiced Tortilla Chips baked -- not fried -- they are a surprising change from the salty potato chips children often select. Who can resist the goodness provided by an "apple a day" in the form of Tasty Baked Apples? And the Quick Confetti Corn is just that -- quick -- but it also provides fiber and polyunsaturated fats found in the margarine spread as well as the corn.
Tasty Baked Apples
Makes 4 servings, takes 10 minutes to prepare and 1 hour and 10 minutes to cook
1 cup water
4 tea bags (black or green tea)
4 large baking apples (such as Rome or Golden Delicious), cored
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
2 tablespoons raisins (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! Spread with Calcium
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In 1-quart saucepan, bring water to a boil; remove from heat. Add tea bags and brew 1-1/2 minutes, dunking occasionally. Remove tea bags and squeeze; set aside. Peel top 1/3 of apples. In 8-inch square baking dish, arrange apples, peeled end up; set aside. In small bowl, combine brown sugar, walnuts, raisins and cinnamon. Evenly spoon walnut mixture into center of apples, then evenly top with Spread. Pour tea over and around apples. Bake uncovered, basting occasionally, 1 hour or until apples are tender.
Quick Confetti Corn
Makes 4 servings; takes 10 minutes to prepare and only 6 minutes to cook
1 tablespoon I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! Spread (tub)
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cups frozen whole kernel corn
2 sliced green onions
2 tablespoons milk
Pinch cayenne pepper
In 2-quart saucepan, melt Spread over medium heat and cook red pepper 2 minutes or until softened. Stir in corn, green onions, milk and cayenne. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until corn is tender. Season with salt if desired.
Sweet Spiced Tortilla Chips
Makes 48 chips; takes 10 minutes to prepare and only 8 minutes to cook
1/4 cup Shedd's Spread Country Crock Plus Yogurt, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 burrito-size flour tortillas
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In small bowl, blend all ingredients except tortillas. Brush mixture on one side of each tortilla; cut each into 8 wedges. On lightly greased baking sheets, arrange tortilla wedges in single layer. Bake 8 minutes or until golden and crisp. Cool on wire rack or serve warm. Store in airtight container.
Mexican Spiced Tortilla Chips
Omit sugar and cinnamon.
Blend Spread with:
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
Continue as above.
More information on the importance of establishing heart-healthy eating patterns early in life can be found at www.never2early.org. The Never2Early Campaign was initiated to help consumers, especially parents of young children, understand that risk factors for heart disease can start developing in the early years. The primary focus of the campaign is on eating a heart-healthy diet starting at the age of two. Since millions of children already have elevated cholesterol levels, it is important for parents to know that eating a heart-healthy diet can significantly reduce the chance of developing unhealthy levels of cholesterol.
From Family Features Editorial Syndicate