In recent years, fats have been accused of being bad things that must be avoided at all costs. But although some fats have nothing more to offer your child than a furred-up artery, certain fats are good for both you and your child and are an important part of a healthy diet. The trick is to sort out the good guys from the bad – and then make sure your child eats the right kinds. There are basically two groups of fats:
· Saturated fats: These are the fats responsible for giving fat a bad name. They’re found in meat and other animal products, such as dairy products and lard, and in palm and coconut oils. Saturated fats are often used in commercial baked goods such as cakes and biscuits and in some margarines and snack foods and may be listed as trans fats or hydrogenated fats. If your child eats too many saturated fats, she will have an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese and of developing heart disease.
Unsaturated fats: These fats are positively beneficial. They’re found in plant foods and fish. The best unsaturated fats are monounsaturated (found in avocados and olive and peanut oil) and polyunsaturated (found in most vegetable oils). Omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, and sardines) are another important group of fats, and are essential for the healthy development of nerves and organs: They have been found to boost children’s brain power if their mothers eat them in pregnancy. There’s no reason to believe that the benefits don’t continue when your little darling can chew for herself.
Getting the best from fats
Fat has twice as many calories as protein and carbs, so keeping fat in check is the key. But fats are still a necessary part of your child’s diet:
· Fats are essential for growth and development. Your child needs a certain amount of fat in her diet to help her brain and nervous system develop correctly.
Fats provide fuel. They are the richest source of calories you can get, which is useful to your growing child.
· Fats aid the absorption of some vitamins. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fatsoluble, which means they are absorbed only if there’s also some fat in the diet.
· Fats are necessary for the production of hormones and for insulating the tissues of the nervous system.