Get the facts about fat
You may be most familiar with nutrition news that describes fat as having too many calories and not good for your heart. That is not the whole story! A moderate amount of fat is needed for the proper functioning of the body. It is the types of fat and the amount of calories from total fat we consume that can be the problem.
Young children need total fat and the calories fat provides for their growing bodies and boundless energy. Fat also helps the body use certain vitamins. Even more importantly, children need certain types of fats, called essential fatty acids that include Omega 3 fats, for optimal growth and development. Experts recommend 30-40% of calories from fat for children 1- 3 years of age. Many children 1- 3 years of age do not get the recommended amount of total fat.
Just like adults, young children should consume a limited amount of saturated fat on a daily basis. About 75% of toddlers and about 50% of preschoolers consume too much saturated fat on a given day.
Total fat is a combination of all fats found in a food: saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats. Meat and dairy products tend to have higher amounts of saturated fats, some trans fats and lower amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Liquid oils have higher amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats including essential fatty acids – linoleic and alpha linonlenic acid (an Omega 3 fat) and lower amounts of saturated and trans fats.
Here’s how you can help your preschooler get a higher proportion of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in her diet.
Want more information? Here are some handy Facts About Fats
||Fat is a major source of energy for growing infants and children. Fat also helps with the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat is very important in the diets of infants and young children for healthy growth. To make sure your child’s total fat isn’t too low, use healthy cooking oils and salad dressings (about 1-2 tablespoons each day).
||These fats are a source of energy, help make up cell structure and are needed for protein functioning. The body can make saturated fats so they are not essential in the diet. Meat and dairy products are the main sources of saturated fat. Serve lean meats and lower fat dairy products to cut back on saturated fat and trans fats. Read food labels to offer foods that are low in saturated fat (1g or less of saturated fat per serving).
||Trans fats are made when oil is hydrogenated and results in “partially hydrogenated” oils – a process that makes a more solid oil. Trans fats are also found in animal based foods (meat, poultry, dairy). Trans fat is not essential in the diet and offers no known health benefit. Read food labels to offer foods that have 0g of trans fat per serving.
||These fats include Omega 6 and Omega 3 fats that are needed for numerous body functions and are critical for optimal growth and development. Some of these fats (linoleic and alpha linolenic acid) are essential fats since the amount needed must come from the diet because the body cannot make them. DHA is another Omega-3 fat that is an important component of the brain and eye. To provide these fats in your Preschoolers diet, include liquid vegetable oils daily and serve fish, particularly fatty fish, once or twice a week. Include products in your preschooler’s diet that are formulated to contain Omega-3 fat.
||Monounsaturated fats are needed for various body functions; however, they can be synthesized in the body and are not essential. Monounsaturated fat is found in many vegetable oils like olive oil. Use of liquid oils for total fat and polyunsaturated fat intake should provide sufficient amounts of monounsaturated fat in your Preschoolers diet.