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Nutritionally Speaking

Adult Low-Fat Diets Not Always Transferable to Growing Children

July 21, 1988|TONI TIPTON

Studies linking increased risk of death from heart disease and high levels of cholesterol in the diet of adults has led to some generalizations regarding children that are causing concern among pediatricians.

In spite of calls for adults to cut back on high-cholesterol foods and reduce dietary fat from its current level of 40% and above to 30% and below, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Assn. have determined that a varied diet--which includes foods from all of the four food groups--is the best assurance of nutritional adequacy for children.

Different Needs for Different Ages

Speaking recently at the 18th annual Dairy Council of California press conference in Santa Barbara, Dr. Robert Issenman, chief of gastroenterology services of McMaster University Medical Center, Ontario, Canada, emphasized this need to individualize and differentiate between the needs of children and those of adults, citing cases of gastrointestinal upset in 3- to 4-year-olds caused, in part, by diets that are too low in fat.

The restricted diet, imposed by well-intentioned parents, can create several complications for children. While a low-fat diet has been determined healthy for adults, it is not advisable for healthy young children--especially before the age of 2 when much of their body is still developing. Parents who feed their toddlers low-fat diets while offering large amounts of juice to promote good health, may be causing digestive problems and inhibiting their child's growth, Issenman said.

The difficulty, he said, is that the average, healthy child is resilient and can tolerate wide variations in the diet. Furthermore, there are children who are prone to diarrhea when offered enormous amounts of fluid and those who have chronic diarrhea who don't drink very much fluid at all.

Some children, such as those he observed who suffered from chronic diarrhea, tended to be on extremely high-sugar diets. They ate foods that were very low in fat while drinking substantial amounts of juice, which is high in simple sugar.

In one study group the subjects were drinking upwards of 55 ounces of fluid per day, he said, because their parents perceived it as healthy. (Thirty-two ounces of liquid per day, including 18 to 24 ounces of milk and 6 to 8 ounces of juice is what Issenman recommends, with water added based on the needs of the child.) When fat was added back into the diet, and liquid decreased, the children improved.

From cases such as these, it has been determined that some children can't digest even the amount of sugar in a standard 8-ounce container of apple juice, so it's impossible for them to digest a half-gallon of it a day. "It overwhelms them," Issenman said.

The conclusion: "Children are not miniature adults and they have different nutrition needs than adults. Children should be looked at, their needs should be looked at, in light of the children themselves. We've got to start to look at the population in terms of either groups or individuals and say, 'What are your problems? What are your problems based on your heredity? What are your problems based on your environment and other factors?' We're going to come up with recommendations that are appropriate to you.

"There is perhaps some danger in extrapolating some of these observations (regarding fat and cholesterol) right across the board for everyone," he said.

To help parents develop menus, here are some recipes geared toward children. The ingredients are palatable, yet contain acceptable amounts of fat. Combined with reasonable liquid intake, they should keep kids on the right track.


1 (1-pound) loaf frozen bread dough

1 pound lean ground beef

1 (10 1/2-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup

1 (4-ounce) can mushrooms, drained

2 tablespoons dried chopped onion

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Allow frozen bread dough to thaw until pliable.

Cook ground beef until well browned and drain. Add soup, mushrooms, onion and Worcestershire to beef. Cut bread dough loaf crosswise into 8 slices. Using small amount flour on board and rolling pin, pat and roll dough pieces out to 5-inch diameter circles. Place filling in centers of dough, then pull all dough edges up to center and pinch tightly to seal filling in.

Place buns, smooth side up, on greased baking sheet. Using sharp knife, make large cut on top of each bun for steam vent and bake at 375 degrees 35 minutes or until well browned. Makes 8 buns.


1 (1-pound) loaf frozen bread dough

1 (10-ounce) can chicken breast chunks, drained

1/3 cup condensed cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots

1 tablespoon minced green onion

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Let frozen bread dough thaw until pliable. Combine chicken, soup, vegetables, onion, curry, salt and pepper and mix well. Cut bread dough loaf crosswise into 8 slices.

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