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Finding the time to feed your family a healthy breakfast can be challenging. But children require a nutritious breakfast – every day – to nourish their growing bodies and fuel them with the energy needed to handle the busy day ahead. Research shows that eating breakfast provides children with a number of benefits: better test scores, improved school attendance, an overall healthier diet, weight control, and lower cholesterol.

The good news is that preparing a breakfast that meets your child’s cholesterol-lowering guidelines can be easy and tasty. For basic breakfast fare, we’ve provided ideas that are low in saturated fat, trans fat-free, rich in soluble fiber, and low in added sugars.

Tips for a Healthy Breakfast

For children over 2 years, offer skim or 1% milk, or unsweetened calcium-fortified soy or almond milk.


Most yogurts are loaded with added sugar. To cut back on fat and sugar, choose nonfat plain yogurt and sweeten your child’s yogurt naturally with applesauce, fruit preserves, fresh fruit, or berries.


Suppress the urge to buy your child “white” bread. Instead, offer 100% whole wheat or sprouted grain bread, English muffins, tortillas or pita. If the color or texture of whole grain turns them off, try some of the new white whole-wheat varieties available.


Instead of spreading butter over your child’s toast, opt for a soft tub spread that is trans fat free (contains no partially hydrogenated oil) and contains less than 2 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. Or try natural nut butter like peanut or almond.

If your child is over 2, you can also try cholesterol-lowering spreads like Benecol, Promise Activ or Smart Balance Heartright – all contain plant stanols or sterols proven to lower cholesterol when consumed in recommended doses (approximately 2-3 servings daily).


Eggs are an economical and healthy source of protein for your growing child. Egg yolks do contain a hefty dose of dietary cholesterol, but your child can safely consume one whole egg each day. If you prepare more than this amount, consider substituting whole eggs with liquid egg substitute or egg whites. One-quarter cup egg substitute or two egg whites are the equivalent to one large egg. Also try eggs containing heart-healthy omega-3 fat. Hens that lay these eggs have omega-3 in their feed, which produces an egg with slightly higher omega-3 content.


Most processed or natural cheese is high in saturated fat, but cheese can often be an important source of calcium for your child. To help cut the saturated fat, choose cheese products labeled low-fat, reduced fat, made with 2% milk , or fat-free. You can also try a soy or rice-based cheese product which are low in saturated fat.


Traditional breakfast sausage, whether it’s derived from beef, turkey or pork, all tend to be high in fat, containing up to a day’s worth of a child’s saturated fat quota in a single one-ounce serving. Look for sausages that are labeled low fat, extra lean, or 97% fat-free and contain less than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving. Or try some of the meatless breakfast patties or links available – they have the same flavor and texture as the real thing, but less saturated fat and zero cholesterol. Keep your child’s intake of sausage to a minimum because like all processed meats, they tend to be high in sodium.


Ounce for ounce, turkey bacon contains less saturated fat than pork. Choose either pork or turkey bacon labeled low-fat or extra lean, or try Canadian bacon, which contains far less saturated fat. Keep your child’s intake to a minimum because bacon (like all processed meat) is high in sodium.


Children love cereal, but most cereals don’t make the grade where nutrition is concerned. Ideally parents should offer cereal made with 100% whole grain ingredients and minimally added sugars. Read food labels and choose cereals that contain 3 or more grams of dietary fiber and less than 8 grams sugar per serving. You can slowly wean them from sugary cereals to more nutritious ones by mixing the two together, eventually adding more of the high-fiber cereal and less of the sugary one over time.


Nothing starts a morning out on a good foot than a warm bowl of oats!Instead of feeding your child sugary instant packets, try buying Quick Cooking, Old Fashioned, Steel Cut or Irish oats.Then jazz up the oatmeal with a drizzle of agave nectar or honey, slivered almonds, fresh or dried fruit, and milk.

10 Breakfasts Under 10 Minutes

We know you’re too busy during the week to prepare extravagant breakfasts for your children. But that doesn’t mean that you have to compromise their health! We’ve got 10 tasty, heart-healthy breakfast ideas that take no more than 10 minutes to prepare. You can either grab-n-go or eat in a jiffy at home. You won’t miss a beat in your busy day; and your child won’t be missing any flavor.

Each of the breakfast ideas below incorporate at least three main food groups to ensure your child receives the necessary protein, fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals he/she needs for good health.

Yogurt and Fruit Parfaits

Alternate layers of diced fresh fruit or berries with nonfat plain yogurt and low-fat granola. Kids love the way it looks in a parfait glass!

Banana Berry Smoothie

In a blender, mix together one small banana, 1 cup fresh or frozen mixed berries, ½ cup 100% orange juice, ¼ cup plain nonfat yogurt and a tablespoon of ground flaxseed or wheat germ. Pour into two 8-ounce glasses and enjoy!

Bagel fruit pizzas

Top ½ of a toasted whole-wheat bagel with 2 Tbsp nonfat Greek yogurt mixed with 2 tsp strawberry preserves. Top with ½ cup sliced strawberries and serve with a glass of 1% or nonfat milk.

PB and Raisin Roll-Up

Spread 1-2 Tbsp natural peanut butter over a 6-inch whole wheat tortilla. Sprinkle with raisins, chopped apple (or banana) and a drizzle of agave nectar and roll. Serve with a glass of calcium and vitamin D fortified orange juice.

Creamy Oatmeal

Measure a ½ cup dry serving of Old Fashioned oatmeal into a microwave-safe bowl. Pour enough water over the oatmeal to cover, and stir. Microwave on HIGH for 1 ½ to 2 minutes until done. Top with chopped walnuts, frozen berries, and a dollop of nonfat vanilla yogurt.

Trail Mix Delight

Package a 1/3-cup serving of homemade trail mix (mixture of favorite dried fruits, nuts and seeds) into a small snack bag. Give your child a container of low-fat or nonfat yogurt and let him or her stir the trail mix into it for a crunchy treat.

Egg and Cheese Sandwich

If you don’t have time to cook an egg or egg substitute over the stovetop, consider your microwave! Take one large omega-3 egg and whisk. Place in a microwave safe bowl and cook for approximately 45-55 seconds. Place cooked “scrambled eggs” on one slice of a whole wheat English muffin and top with a slice of 2% fat cheese. Top with remaining half of English muffin and serve with a bowl of fresh fruit.

Waffle Sandwich

Spread 1 Tbsp each natural almond butter and fruit preserves on two toasted whole grain frozen waffles and make a sandwich out of it. Serve with a glass of calcium and vitamin D fortified 100% orange juice.

Cereal a Go-Go

For a quick on-the-go meal, have single serving baggies filled with your child’s favorite low-sugar, high-fiber cereal (or a mixture of high fiber and not-so-healthy cereal). As you head out the door, grab the cereal bag, a banana from the countertop, a container of nonfat yogurt, and a spoon. Have your child eat each item separately, or mix the cereal into the yogurt if possible.

Eggs in a Pita

Heat a skillet over medium and spray with cooking spray. When hot, quickly saute a handful of bagged spinach and store bought diced tomatoes until spinach is wilted and tomatoes are warm. Pour ¼ cup egg substitute over the veggie mixture and top with 1 Tbsp 2% shredded cheese. Cover skillet until egg is cooked through and cheese melted (about 2 minutes). Place cooked egg onto the bottom half of a sliced 4-inch whole wheat pita and cover with the top. Head out the door with your pita sandwich and a glass of milk.

Bonus Breakfast Idea:

Make ahead tasty, high-fiber muffins and keep in the refrigerator or freezer. If you’re in a hurry, grab a muffin, a glass of milk, and a piece of fruit and head out the door. Toss berries or dried fruit into your muffins for added fiber, and spread with natural peanut butter for an added protein boost.

A healthy breakfast does not require a lot of time or energy. Take a few minutes each week before you grocery shop to stock up on healthy grab-n-go breakfasts and establish a lifetime of healthy eating for your child.

Whether brown bagging or eating in the cafeteria, you have to make a conscious effort to watch keep portions reasonable. Start out by making sure that you have things from more than one food group. You need to have certain amounts of each food group a day, so you want to try to eat the right amount of each group at each meal.

Tips for a Healthy Lunch
Portion sizes

To get an idea of what a portion of each food group should look like, here are a few comparisons:

  • A serving of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards
  • A serving of pasta or rice should be about the size of a tennis ball or ice cream scoop
  • A serving of bread should be about the size of a computer disk
  • A serving of vegetables should be about the size of a light bulb
  • A serving of cheese should be about the size of four dice

“Keep in mind that you don’t have to limit yourself to a single serving at each meal, but it is important to understand that a serving size isn’t necessarily what you are being served when dining out (or what you serve yourself at home)” says Melissa Ohlson, a nutritionist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Although many believe that cutting out a certain food group can promote weight loss, actually eating the right portions of the food groups at meals can be more beneficial. When you continuously eat more than a portion size, it can cause you to weight gain. “An easy way to control portions and keep calories in check is to pack your lunch instead of buying,” suggests Ohlson.

That said many Americans eat too many carbohydrates and sugars. According to the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, “Americans consumed on average, 200 pounds of food and cereal products in 2000” (USDA).

Helpful tips

At lunch, if you want to eat a sandwich, or a serving of bread, try to eat whole grains. Whole grains can help lower the risk for cardiovascular disease (narrowing of the blood vessels that feed your heart with oxygen-rich blood) and some types of cancer. If you want to eat a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, be careful with the amount of peanut-butter and jelly you put on your sandwich. The proper serving of peanut-butter is only about the size of a ping-pong ball. And jelly is sugar, not a fruit, so make sure to be careful with the amount of jelly you use.

A helpful way to remember to vary the items you have for lunch, try to eat food that are many different colors. Most of the colors can come from fruits like bananas, grapes, apples, berries, etc. But, your greens can be from leafy veggies like: broccoli, spinach, romaine lettuce, etc. And, your oranges can be from carrots, or sweet potatoes. Try to eat a lot of vegetables and fruits.

A very popular lunch-time drink is milk. When picking the milk you are going to drink, try to choose the fat-free or low-fat milk (skim or 1%.) Of course you can drink chocolate milk, just try to pick up the reduced fat option.

Protein is something that is very important to have in your body. You can either get your proteins from lean meats, poultry (chicken,) or fish. Or, you can also find protein in beans, eggs and nuts.

When you’re eating lunch, you don’t have to stay away from the sweets, as long as you eat it in moderation. It shouldn’t be the main part of your meal.

Packing lunches can be fun. Experiment with healthy food choices. Take a look at the 10 Quick and Tasty Brown Bag Lunches below!

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, (Fifth edition), Home andGarden Bulletin NO. 232, May 2000.

Written by Melissa Ohlson, MS, RD, LD, Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation.

10 Quick and Tasty Brown Bag Lunches

In the quest to fuel your child with heart-healthy foods that won’t weigh them down (or your pocketbook), here are 10 tasty, healthy, and economical options for your child to take to school or summer camp. Just make sure you keep these items cold (cold items should stay below 40 degrees Fahrenheit at all times) by packing their lunches in an insulated bag and tossing in an ice pack along with it.

A healthy lunch should always include these key ingredients:
  1. Whole grain. Your child needs fiber for good health and cholesterol control. So always pack a whole grain with lunch. Whole wheat bread, English muffins, pita, tortillas, whole grain pasta, and crackers are all examples.
  2. Lean protein. Protein will help satisfy their appetite and give them much-needed energy for the afternoon. Alternate plant and animal-based protein options throughout the week. Nuts, peanut butter, beans, lean beef, chicken, tofu, milk, yogurt or fish are good sources of protein.
  3. Veggies. Your child needs at least 1 ½ cups of veggies each day so supply at least ½ to 1 cup at lunch. Baby carrots, cucumber or pepper slices, veggie soup, grape tomatoes or spinach – your options are endless.
  4. Fruit. Fresh fruit is a great way to end a meal with a little “sweet” touch. Pack fresh, dried or canned (in light syrup) fruit in your child’s lunch every day. If they are too full to eat it for lunch, it makes a great portable mid-afternoon snack.
Hummus Wrap

Spread a ¼ cup portion of hummus over a whole-wheat tortilla and top with diced tomatoes, romaine lettuce, grated carrot, and sliced artichoke. Roll tightly. Add a serving of nonfat yogurt, a handful of nuts, and an apple.

Cracker Delight

Some kids just don’t like to eat a sandwich, but you can still give them the “insides” of a sandwich and serve with whole grain crackers. Pack a serving of whole grain crackers and let them top with any of the following protein-rich foods: rolled turkey breast lunchmeat, tuna salad made with light mayo, 2% fat cheddar cheese slices, or hummus. Toss in a baggie of cooked and cooled edamame (green soy beans), 1 cup diced melon, and a carton of milk.

Veggie Pasta

Make a few extra servings of whole wheat penne pasta next time you prepare pasta for dinner. The following day, let your child delight in this amazingly tasty pasta salad: Toss in cooked and sliced chicken breast (from leftovers), halved grape tomatoes, and spinach leaves. Zest some lemon over the pasta and stir in some olive oil, lemon juice and chopped fresh basil for a delightfully easy meal. Don’t forget to pack a serving of milk and fruit.

Mexicali Rice Surprise

Take a serving of leftover cooked brown rice and toss in the following: black beans, chopped scallions, diced red pepper, and thawed yellow corn. Stir in a little lime juice, olive oil and ground cumin. Serve with brown rice tortilla chips, salsa, and mango slices.

Leftover Pizza

Kids love pizza, and there’s nothing wrong with leftovers – especially if it’s homemade pizza! Take two slices of leftover whole wheat veggie pizza and serve with a small tossed salad with light dressing and a cup of sliced strawberries.

Cottage Cheese and Veggies

Some kids love cottage cheese – others absolutely hate it. Give it another try with this creative assortment. Portion a ½-cup serving of 2% milkfat cottage cheese and top with grape tomatoes, cucumber slices and a sprinkling of fresh dill. Serve with whole grain crackers and a medium orange.

Peanutty Treat

Spread 2 Tablespoons natural peanut butter into a whole-wheat tortilla. Sprinkle with diced apple and raisins or banana and raisins and a drizzle of agave nectar. Roll tightly. Serve with nonfat Greek yogurt and baby carrots.

Lunch Kebobs

On a few wooden skewers, alternate turkey, ham, 2% cheese, and grape tomatoes. Serve with whole grain crackers, a carton of chocolate milk and a small peach.

Pita Pocket

Stuff a small whole-wheat pita with canned chicken, tuna or salmon salad. Mix 2 ounces of the drained protein choice with diced onion and celery, 1 Tbsp light mayonnaise and a dash of Dijon mustard. Stuff in sliced tomato and lettuce leaves. Serve with a thermos filled with your child’s favorite vegetable soup, a piece of fruit, and carton of low-fat milk.

Not Your Usual Salad

Buy bagged, pre-washed salad mix and toss in canned drained chickpeas, diced low-fat cheese, sliced olives, cucumber, and pepper. Toss with your child’s favorite light vinaigrette dressing and top with slivered almonds and craisins. Serve with a whole wheat roll and a carton of low-fat milk.

Tips from Teens: Stay Healthy in School

How do you stay healthy?

Bring healthy snacks to school
Katie G. age 17

Walk for 1 hour every day, it’s also a stress reliever
Erica F. age 18

Watch portion sizes
Jane P. age 17

Don’t drink soda, or eat fast food. Drink a lot of water
Brandon S. age 18

Drink milk, join a sports team
Joe K. age 18

Take the stairs, and not the elevator
Julie D. age 17

Try not to eat too late, eat before 8 or 8:30 every school night. Also, exercise every day by walking or running
Cameron P. age 17

It's okay to indulge every once in a while, but pick carefully what your favorite things are. Don’t indulge on a whole bag of pretzels you don’t even like
Wynne M. age 18

Drink a sufficient amount of water every day
Hannah G. age 17

Join the school or local gym and lift weights. And, take a jog outside when the weather is nice
Steve D. age 18

Always eat breakfast, and eat more small meals rather than fewer large meals
Travis E. age 18

Eat an apple every morning for breakfast, and drink 2 bottles of water every day
Ashley M. age 17

Do something, anything, active every day.
Gabe T. age 19

Work out 3 times a week, when not in season for a sport
Brian T. age 18

Play sports at schools, work out outside of season, and eat a lot of fruit
Rosario N. age 18

Sleep a minimum of 8 hours a night
J.R. O. age 18

Try all the activities that your school offers, so you don’t get bored. It will also allow you to meet different groups of people, and it’s nice to work out and be active with friends. Also, keep healthy snacks with you, so you don’t snack on foods that aren’t good for you
Sarah K. age 19

Get enough sleep, and wash your hands
Julie L. age 17

Send us your helpful tips. 

The USDA recommends a 2,000 calorie diet; however most Americans consume many more than 2,000 calories per day. The diet of most Americans has more saturated fats, salts and sugars in them than is recommended. This problem leads to obesity which then leads to an increased risk for:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Certain cancers
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Gallbladder disease and gallstones
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gout
  • Breathing problems
  • Sleep apnea
  • Bone problems

Types of fats

There are many types of fats. There are four main types of fats: saturated fatty acids, trans-fats, hydrogenated fats, and polyunsaturated-monounsaturated fats.

Saturated fatty acids

These fats have the maximum amount of hydrogen that carbon atoms can hold. This fat is most often solid at room temperature. In the typical American diet, saturated fats are most frequently from animal products and a few plant based oils or fats (mostly dessert or snack foods). Some examples are: full fat cheese and dairy products, cream, lard, bacon fat, butter, fatty cuts of meat, skin of poultry, tropical oils (coconut, palm).

Saturated fats should be avoided since they are linked to heart disease. Here are some helpful suggestions in trying to avoid saturated fatty acids.

  • Choose light margarine instead of butter
  • Choose low -fat of nonfat cheese instead of regular cheese
  • Choose nonfat or low -fat frozen yogurt or sorbet instead of regular ice cream
  • Choose ground sirloin instead of ground chuck
  • Choose chicken without the skin on instead of chicken with the skin on
  • Choose egg whites instead of the whole egg

Trans-fats are also known as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. They lower “good” cholesterol (HDL) and raise “bad” cholesterol (LDL.).

This type of fat is not a saturated fat, and it is found in baked goods, food at most restaurants and in fast-food chain foods. Trans-fat is the result of a process called hydrogenation, or adding hydrogen to vegetable oil and making the fat more solid at room temperature. Some examples of foods high in trans fats are: cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, fried onion rings, and donuts.

Try to stay away from these types of trans-fats. Here are some helpful ways to avoid trans-fats :

  • Choose trans-free tub margarine or liquid margarine instead of stick margarine
  • Choose baked, grilled or broiled foods instead of fried food
  • Choose plain, non-coated energy bars instead of energy bars dipped in frosting or chocolate.
  • Choose granola bars containing canola oil instead of granola bars containing partially hydrogenated oils
  • Choose baked potato chips instead of regular potato chips
  • Choose plain pretzels instead of chocolate or yogurt covered pretzels
  • Choose baked crackers or crackers containing non-hydrogenated oils instead of crackers containing hydrogenated oils
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids

These are unsaturated fatty acids, which are “good” fats. Both are liquid (oil) at room temperature, but monounsaturated oils start to solidify at refrigerator temperatures. These fatty acids help keep the body free from newly formed cholesterol. Some examples of polyunsaturated fats are: safflower, sesame, soy, corn and sunflower-seed oils, nuts and seeds. Some examples of monounsaturated fats are: olive, canola, and peanut oils, and avocados. Even though these types of fats are “good” fats, too much of a good thing is sometimes a bad thing. If you eat too many “good” fats, it will lead to weight gain. Enjoy these fats with meals and snacks, but try not to go overboard as a little goes a long way.

Try to:

  • Choose olive oil and vinegar instead of creamy salad dressings
  • Choose nuts instead of potato chips

The “bad fats”, saturated and trans-fats should be very limited in your daily intake. Calories from saturated fat should not exceed 7% of your total daily calorie intake and calories from trans-fat should be less than 1%.

Need Diet and Lifestyle Guidance?

For more information on preventive cardiology, or to schedule an appointment with a preventive cardiology physician or nutritionist, call the main campus of Cleveland Clinic at 216.444.9353.

Reviewed: 12/2013

Talk to a Nurse: Mon. - Fri., 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. (ET)

Call a Heart & Vascular Nurse locally 216.445.9288 or toll-free 866.289.6911.

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