How can I improve my child's diet if he has fatty liver disease?

Joanna Yeh, MD
Pediatric Gastroenterology
If your child has fatty liver disease, the mainstay of treatment is healthy lifestyle habits, diet change and exercise. Follow these tips to improve your child's diet if he has fatty liver disease:
  • Avoid white foods, which include white rice, white breads and mashed potatoes, as they have a high glycemic index. A food with a high glycemic index will increase glucose levels in the body, leading to a surge of insulin. Comparing, for example, whole wheat bread to white bread, it is better to eat the whole wheat bread.
  • Always read food labels to avoid foods that have added fructose and other added sugars.
  • Avoid a low-fat diet for children because fats are very important for growth and development, but increase the proportion of healthy fats. For example, omega 3 fatty acids in nuts, fish and avocado are healthier than trans fats.
  • Work with a registered dietitian to make sure that your child is getting balanced macronutrients and that your child's diet isn't too high in fat or too low in protein.
  • Limit liquid calories. Juice, soda, smoothies, energy drinks and whole milk often have a lot of calories that children can drink very fast, and these can make up a large portion of their caloric intake for the day. Moreover, a lot of these drinks don't have fiber to slow down digestion, so, for example, drinking a glass of orange juice is not the same as eating an actual orange.
  • Make sure that your child is getting enough fiber in his diet. For children, use the formula of their age plus four, which equals the number of grams of fiber they should consume in a day.
Joel Lavine, MD
Pediatric Gastroenterology
Talk to your pediatrician for diet tips that pertain specifically to your child. Many children who have fatty liver disease are overweight or obese. If this is true for your child, losing even 5% to 10% of total body weight can improve the condition of his liver, as well as his health overall. Here are ways you can help a child with fatty liver disease lose weight, and achieve and maintain a healthy body weight:
  • Get the whole family committed to healthier eating. It is easier for a child to change his eating habits if everyone in the family makes the same changes. 
  • Fill your house with healthy foods. Avoid buying high-fat, high salt and high-cholesterol foods. Make fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain foods readily available to your child. 
  • Make sure that your child starts the day with a healthy breakfast.
  • Read the school lunch menu. If there are no low-fat options available for lunch, pack your child a healthy lunch to take with him. 
  • Make daily exercise a family routine. Do some physical activity (such as riding bikes or a family walk) when everyone is home after work and school. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.