Healthy Fats and Child Development

Nutritionists and dieticians have warned against dietary fat as a culprit for cardiovascular disease for decades. Consequently, drastically reducing our fat consumption and replacing it with simple carbohydrates has left us with other major health concerns such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. These new global health crises are shifting the world’s perception of dietary fat for the better as nutrition experts recognize its role in our diets. 

Dietary fats can certainly pose significant health risks to children which is why it’s important to recognize the different types of dietary fats and their respective effects on children’s bodies. For example, trans fats are found in hydrogenated vegetable oils and are primarily “man made.” Regular consumption of these trans fatty acids can increase harmful LDL cholesterol and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. They’re also the reason why fat got such a bad reputation to begin with!

Unsaturated fats are considered the “healthy fats” and can be broken up into two categories: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Both of these fats are crucial for infant and child development, specifically neurological and retina development with polyunsaturated fats and cardiovascular health with monounsaturated fats. These fats can be found in nuts, seeds, avocado, fish, and non-hydrogenated vegetable oils (i.e olive or avocado oil).

Incorporating healthy fats into a child’s diet in place of saturated fats, trans fats, and simple carbohydrates can be as easy as replacing french fries with roasted veggies and avocado oil or drizzling nut butter over fruit for their dessert. Feeding children food that keeps them nourished and healthy has never been more important as we continue to face issues such as a global pandemic, widespread childhood obesity, and malnutrition in young children.