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Dietary Fat in Your Child’s Diet

Kid's Health

Dietary Fat in Your Child’s Diet

Facts about Fat

The moment the word “fat” flashes in your mind, it generally gives a feeling about something bad, which you shouldn’t eat. However the fact is, not all fats are bad and rather some fats are very essential for your child’s health. A certain amount of fat in your child’s diet is vital for the healthy development of the brain and nervous system. It also protects vital organs in the body and helps control the body temperature. Fat also provides us with energy and adds taste and texture to our food.

The problem arises when the kids eat too much fat or less amount of healthy types of fat. Let’s have a look at the types of fat.

1. Unsaturated fats: Found in plant foods and fish, these fats are seen as neutral or even beneficial to heart health. The types of unsaturated fats are:
  • Monounsaturated, found in avocados and olive, peanut, and canola oils
  • Polyunsaturated, found in most vegetable oils
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat found in oily fish like tuna and salmon

2. Saturated fats: Found in meat and other animal products, such as butter, cheese, and milk (except skim or nonfat). These fats are also in palm and coconut oils, which are often used in commercial baked goods. Many take-away foods and processed foods, such as pies, pastries, doughnuts and most commercial cakes and biscuits, can be high in saturated fats.
Eating too much saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.

3. Trans fats: Found in margarine (especially the sticks), processed foods, commercial snack foods and baked goods, and some commercially fried foods, trans fats (also called trans fatty acids) are created when vegetable oils are hydrogenated (meaning that hydrogen atoms are added to the fat molecule so they remain solid at room temperature). Trans fats can raise cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. Food manufacturers must list trans fats on food labels, but may also refer to them as "partially hydrogenated" oils on the ingredient list.


Why Some Fats Are Healthy for Your Child?

Fat is an essential part of your child or teen’s diet. Adequate fat intake is essential for growth and development. Young kids, especially, need a certain amount of fat in their diets to help the brain and nervous system develop correctly.

Besides supplying fuel for the body, fats:

  • Aid in the absorption of some vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble, meaning they can only be absorbed if there's fat in a person's diet)
  • Are the building blocks of hormones
  • Are necessary for insulating all nervous system tissues in the body
  • Help people feel full, so they're less likely to eat as much

Fat is a great source of energy but has twice the amount of calories compared with the same amount of carbohydrates or protein. For example, one gram of fat provides nine calories,

whereas one gram of carbohydrates and protein provide four calories each.

Fatty foods are often associated with overweight, obesity, heart disease and stroke, but eating the right fats in balanced quantities can provide the body with many health benefits.

How Much Fat Should Kids Get?

Fat is a component in food. Some foods, including most fruits and vegetables, have almost no fat. The following are the fat recommendation for children according to age groups:

Most fat should come from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (such as those found in fish, nuts and vegetable oils.) Limit foods with saturated and trans fats (such as meats, full-fat dairy products, and processed foods).

Tips to Cut Out Saturated and Trans Fats

Family eating habits determine what your child will learn to eat and enjoy. Here are some ways you and your family can limit fat and cho¬lesterol in your diets:

  • Try to use spreads and margarines made from canola, sunflower or olive oil and dairy blends as a replacement for butter. You can also use other foods, such as avocado or hummus, as an alternative to spreads and margarines two or three times a week
  • Use a variety of vegetable and seed oils when you are preparing foods. Healthier choices include canola, sunflower, soybean, olive and sesame oils, as well as oil from nuts like peanut and macadamia
  • Use salad dressing and mayonnaise made from canola, sunflower, soybean, olive, sesame and peanut oils
  • Select lean meats (trim any visible fat off meat and remove the skin from chicken)
  • Try to limit your intake of fatty processed meats, such as sausages, and delicatessen meats, such as salami. These also tend to be high in added salt
  • Try to limit your intake of snack foods, such as potato crisps, corn chips and chocolate
  • Try to limit your intake of take-away foods, such as pies, pastries, pizza, hamburgers and creamy pasta dishes

Some Other Simple Tips to Reduce Fat in Your Child's Diet

  • Keep fresh fruits and vegetables available
  • Serve whole-grain bread and cereals
  • Rely on low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, and select cheeses that are lower in fat
  • Include starchy foods (potatoes, pasta, rice) in your meals
  • Avoid high-fat and high-calorie toppings, including butter, mar¬garine, sour cream, and gravy. Instead, use herbed cottage cheese, grated parmesan cheese, or low-fat yogurt as toppings
  • Choose frozen fruit bars, angel food cake, or low-fat frozen yo¬gurt instead of rich, creamy desserts
  • When cooking, use nonstick vegetable sprays to cut down on added fat
  • Choose fat-free cooking techniques, such as baking, broiling, poaching, grilling, or steaming when preparing meat, fish, and poultry. Do not use butter or margarine when preparing or serv¬ing vegetables
  • Serve vegetable-based and broth-based soups. Choose low-fat milk when making cream soups



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