CHILD-1 Diet and Nutrition Recommendations

Kids eating at a salad bar

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The CHILD-1 diet is the first stage of the Cardiovascular Health Integrated Lifestyle Diet and it can help you get your child's health on a better track. It is recommended for children with certain health conditions—the diet can be a good idea for all kids since it promotes healthy eating and a healthy weight. The diet was designed in mind for kids:

  • With high cholesterol levels (dyslipidemia)
  • Who are overweight
  • With high blood pressure
  • With high-risk medical conditions, such as having type 1 or type 2 diabetes, having had a kidney transplant or heart transplant, chronic kidney disease, end-stage renal disease, or Kawasaki disease and still having coronary artery aneurysms
  • With a family history of early cardiovascular disease, dyslipidemia (high cholesterol levels), obesity, primary hypertension, diabetes mellitus, or exposure to smoking in the home.

Most children with risk factors should transition to a CHILD-1 diet when they are two years old. Parents and pediatricians should then continue to reinforce CHILD-1 diet messages as these children get older.

CHILD-1 Diet

So what is a CHILD-1 diet?

The CHILD-1 diet works to:

  • Limit or avoid sugar-sweetened drinks
  • Encourage kids to drink water
  • Avoid trans fat
  • Encourage high-fiber foods
  • Limit sodium and avoid foods high in salt
  • Encourage kids to drink fat-free unflavored milk
  • Teach kids about appropriate portion sizes, which will be partly based on the estimated number of calories they need each day based on their age, gender, and how active they are
  • Encourage daily physical activity
  • Limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg each day
  • Teach healthy eating habits
  • Encourage a DASH-type diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat or fat-free milk and other dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and seeds, and lower in sweets and added sugars, fats, and red meats

You don't necessarily need to wait until your child is two to start CHILD-1 though.

Part of the CHILD-1 recommendations are that infants should be exclusively breastfed until they are six-months-old, and should continue breastfeeding until they are 12 months old, even as they start eating solid foods.

CHILD-1 for Younger Toddlers

Although some of the CHILD-1 recommendations for infants between the ages of 12 to 24 months are a little technical, others are fairly simple:

  • Limiting juice to no more than 4 ounces of 100% fruit juice each day
  • If not breastfeeding, consider transitioning to reduced-fat unflavored cow's milk, from 2% to fat-free milk, if your child is overweight, at risk for obesity, or if he has risk factors for cardiovascular disease
  • Transition to table foods that provide 30% of their daily calories from fat, but only about 8 to 10% from saturated fat, with the rest coming from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
  • Avoid trans fat

If your child doesn't have any risk factors, he can transition to fat-free milk when he is two-years-old.

CHILD-1 for Toddlers to School-Age Kids

By the time your child is two, his or her primary drink should be fat-free unflavored milk.

As compared to infants, these older kids need a little less fat in their diet - about 25 to 30% of their total calories. The majority of those fats should still be monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, though, with a smaller proportion of saturated fat.

This is a good age to start teaching children about portions sizes and encouraging regular physical activity.

CHILD-1 for Preteens and Teens

In addition to continuing to drink fat-free unflavored milk, water, and limited amounts of sugar-sweetened drinks, older kids should be encouraged to follow healthy eating habits, such as:

  • Eating breakfast every day
  • Eating meals as a family
  • Limiting fast-food meals

Continuing to eat high-fiber foods, watching portion sizes, and being physically active every day is also still important at this age.

CHILD-1 Next Steps

It is important to keep in mind that CHILD-1 diet is just the first step for children with high cholesterol. If after a 3- to 6-month trial of CHILD-1 dietary changes a child continues to have high cholesterol, they should then be moved to a CHILD-2 diet with:

  • Only 25% to 30% of calories from fat
  • Less than or equal to 7% of calories from saturated fat
  • About 10% of calories from monounsaturated fat
  • Less than 200 mg/d of cholesterol
  • Avoid trans fats as much as possible

And depending on their lipid profile, they should follow a CHILD-2-LDL vs. a CHILD-2-TG diet. The CHILD-2-LDL diet encourages the use of plant sterols, plant stanol esters, and water-soluble fiber psyllium to replace some fats in the child's diet. In contrast, the CHILD-2-TG diet encourages the replacement of simple sugars with complex carbohydrates and increasing omega-3 fatty acids.

Keep in mind that a registered dietitian should likely help your child plan and follow their CHILD-2 diet, and may even be helpful for the CHILD-1 diet, too.

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents: Summary Report. Pediatrics. Volume 128, Supplement 6, December 2011.

By Vincent Iannelli, MD
Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.