How Important are Healthy Fats for Kids?
Fats are nutrients in food that the body uses to build nerve tissue (including the brain and nerves) and hormones. The body also uses fat as fuel.
If fats aren’t burned as energy or used as building blocks for other things, they’re stored by the body in fat cells. This is the body’s way of thinking ahead: By saving fat for future use, the body is able to prepare for times when food might be scarce.
Fat gives food flavor and texture, but it’s also high in calories. And excess amounts of fatty foods can cause many health problems.
For kids, desserts, and snacks (including potato chips, chocolate, cakes, doughnuts, pastries, and cookies) are a significant source of fat. Kids also get fat from whole-milk products and high-fat meats, such as bacon, hotdogs, and fatter cuts of red meat.
Of course, fast food and takeout meals tend to have more fat than home cooking; and in restaurants, fried dishes are the highest in fat content. Fat also often “hides” in food in the form of creamy, cheesy, or buttery sauces or dressings.
Despite the prevalence of fat in many kinds of food, there’s no need to be overly concerned.
Fat is an important part of a healthy diet if kids eat healthier types of fat at the recommended daily amounts.
Encouraging Kids to Eat Fat in a Healthy Way
Childhood is the best time to start healthy eating habits, but adult goals for cutting back on total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol are not meant for children younger than two years old.