Fat often gets a bad rap. But while fats in balance are good for everyone, they play an especially crucial role for babies and toddlers―especially when they come from the right sources. So how can you strike the right balance? And what exactly is a “good” fat? Here’s what you need to know about healthy fats for babies and how to serve it to your tiny human.
What kinds of fat are there?
As you may have guessed, not all fats are created equal. For example, an avocado and a slice of bacon are both high in fat―but only one is likely to be recommended by a nutritionist. The primary types of fat that are mentioned by nutrition experts are polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, saturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids, and trans fat.
Polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat
These are the kinds found in fruits and vegetables like olives, nuts, and avocados, and are often referred to as “good fats,” which means that they are considered healthy fats for babies. We recommend adding avocado oil to your baby’s meals. It’s a non-choking hazard and helps your tiny human’s body absorb other nutrients. That’s why we include avocado oil in our Broccoli + Green Bean meal, for instance.
Saturated fats can primarily be found in animal sources, like butter, cheese, and meat, and tend to be solid at room temperature.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that occurs primarily in fish oils and some plants. For example, you can find Omega-3 in our Peas + Zucchini meal (because of the hemp seeds).They are needed for optimum bodily function and help your baby’s brain development so that one day, they can read to you for a change.
Trans fats start out as “good fats,” but are changed chemically and become bad fats, which means they are not considered healthy fats for babies. They’re typically found in processed foods and have a negative effect on your cholesterol (high cholesterol is bad for your baby’s heart).
Do babies and toddlers need fat?
Absolutely―it can actually be even more important for babies than adults. That’s because fat is crucial for proper cell and brain development and vitamin absorption (especially for absorbing vitamins A, D, E, and K). For babies, fat plays a role in everything from helping the brain to function fully to helping children reach their full growth potential. And because babies and toddlers have such small stomachs, consuming the right amount of fat is essential to make sure they’re maintaining energy and developing at the right rate. Under the age of two, most experts recommend that half of your child’s calories from come from healthy fats. (Still nursing? Don’t sweat it―breastmilk is naturally high in the fat your baby needs.)
What are the benefits of healthy fats for babies and toddlers?
As your child grows (and gets less fat and nutrients from breastmilk or formula) the right mix of fat becomes even more important. Dietary fat helps support your toddler’s nervous system and eye health, as well as providing the immune system a needed boost. Serving full-fat products to children over time can help regulate blood sugar levels (because low-fat foods are often supplemented with sugar).
How can I make sure my child is getting enough fat?
As we’ve discussed, there’s a big difference between serving your child a spoonful of sunflower seed butter or a bite of a Big Mac. Both may be high in fat, but only one serves up the right kind. Avocado and olive oil, nut butters, seeds, yogurt, wild-caught salmon, whole milk, and coconut are all excellent sources of fat for babies and toddlers. For new eaters, adding a bit of avocado, flaxseed, or coconut milk to purees can be a great way to introduce fat (All 3 ingredients are in our meals!). As your child gets older, coconut butter or nut butter can be a great spread for fruits and veggies, or you can dish up bite-sized servings of salmon and cottage cheese to supplement fat. Or you can skip the stress and let Raised Real provide healthy sources of fat―all of our meals include a healthy fat source, like avocado oil, flaxseeds, or coconut butter. Now that’s phat, yo.
By, Justine Lorelle LoMonaco