Here at Shelley’s Good Eats, we know it can be difficult for parents to know what foods they should be feeding their kids. So today we’re discussing all things fat, and particularly the truth about feeding your kids healthy fats. With so much conflicting information out there, it can be hard to know what to believe…and fat is no exception. With some old school professionals telling us that, “Eating fats causes weight gain and disease” and pro-Keto people preaching that, “High-fat diets promote weight loss and longevity”, it is understandable why we have conflicted feelings about fat. The reality is that it is not that simple and the truth about fats and our health, lies somewhere in the middle of these two conflicting beliefs.
The first part of the truth is that our bodies do need dietary fats to support some of their important functions; such as assisting the absorption of some vitamins (A, D, E and K), building our hormones and insulating our nervous system tissues, providing our bodies with energy and helping us to feel full after a meal (making us less likely to overeat!) However, the second part of this truth is that not all fats are created equal, meaning while some fats are health-promoting, others can have negative effects on our bodies when eaten in large amounts over long periods of time.
So how do you know what fats you should be feeding your kids?
Basically there are three main types of fats, saturated, trans and unsaturated fats. Saturated and trans-fats are considered to be ‘unhealthy fats’, while unsaturated fats are considered to be ‘healthy fats’.
But why are some fats better than others and what foods contain healthy fats?
Saturated and Trans fats
Both saturated and trans fats increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol which can increase your risk of developing heart disease. However, trans fats also lower your HDL (good) cholesterol.
Sources of saturated fats include:
– dairy foods (butter, cream, ghee, regular-fat milk and cheese)
– fatty cuts of meat (beef, pork, lamb and chicken skin) and processed meats (salami, sausages)
– palm oil
– cooking margarine and copha
– coconut oil, milk and cream
– fatty snack foods
– deep-fried take away foods
– cakes, biscuits, pastries and pies
Sources of trans fats include:
– diary products
– some meats (beef, veal, lamb and mutton)
– hydrogenated vegetable fats/oils (can be added to deep-fried and baked packaged foods e.g. biscuits, cakes and pastries)
Unsaturated fats help reduce the risk of high blood cholesterol levels. There are two main types of unsaturated fats which differ in chemical structure and offer different health benefits, these are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. It is recommended to replace sources of saturated fats with unsaturated fat sources in your diet, where possible.
There are two main sources of polyunsaturated fats, these include omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Omega-3 fats are protective against the development of heart disease and omega-6 fats have been shown to decrease your risk when consumed in place of saturated fats.
Omega-3 fat sources:
The best sources of omega-3 fats are oily fish and seafood. However, there are other sources of marine, animal and plant omega-3 fats. The best sources of omega-3 fats from each category include:
– Fish and seafood sources (salmon, sardines and blue-eyed trevalla)
– Animal sources (free-range eggs, beef and chicken, but contain smaller amounts)
– Plant sources (linseed/flaxseed, walnuts, chia and hemp seeds, soybean oil and canola oil)
While these are the best sources of omega-3 fats, they are not an exclusive list. For more sources of omega-3 fats, head to The Heart Foundations ‘omega-3 sources’ list.
Omega-6 fat sources:
– margarine spreads
– sunflower, soybean and sesame oils
– nuts (walnuts, pecans, brazil and pine nuts)
– sunflower seeds
Replacing saturated fat sources with monounsaturated fats can help lower your cholesterol. Monounsaturated fat sources include:
– olive, canola and peanut oil
So how can we decrease the amount of saturated and trans fats in our kid’s diets?
As always, maintaining a healthy diet and relationship with our food should be about how we can incorporate more healthful foods into our diets, rather than focusing on which foods we should restrict or remove from our diets. With this in mind, we have come up with some simple tips on how to incorporate more ‘healthy fats’ into your kid’s diet.
- Choose lean cuts of meat and trim off visible fat and remove the skin from chicken
- Buy reduced-fat dairy products for children aged over 2 years (being mindful of the added sugar contents)
- Choose unsaturated oil types for your cooking (sunflower, olive oil)
- Swap to a natural margarine spread instead of butter, or try using avocados, hummus, nut butter or tahini as your spread of choice
- Incorporate meals with plenty of fruits, veg and wholegrains and limit takeaway to once a week, if possible (Try our 2 ingredient pizza dough for an unforgettable homemade pizza night in)
- Check packaged foods for added ‘hydrogenated oils’, as these contain trans-fats
- Opt for homemade cakes, biscuits and pastries, rather than pre-packaged (Try our black bean brownies or chewy muesli slice for some yummy homemade alternatives)
- Eat fish instead of meat 2-3 times a week (Try our sweet potato and salmon patties to take your fish meals to the next level)
- Try incorporating legume or bean-based meals twice a week in place of meat, if possible
As always, the best example of healthy eating habits your children can get is through the modelled behaviour of you (the parents). But a healthy diet doesn’t have to mean only consuming ‘healthful’ foods every day. And of course, there is a place in you and your kid’s diets for saturated fats and takeaway nights. Moderation is definitely the key to success when it comes to a healthy and sustainable diet and relationship with your food in the long term. Modelling a balanced approach to food, while incorporating plenty of the good stuff to help them grow and thrive, is the best way to ensure they get everything they need to live happy and healthy lives.
We hope that this blog post has helped to clear up all the confusion surrounding fats and feeding them to your kids. Let us know in the comments if you found this post useful, we’d love to hear from you.
– the Shelley’s Good Eats Team
A bit about the Author
Hi my name is Karly. I am a 3rd year Nutrition student, studying on the beautiful Sunshine Coast. I work as an assistant at Shelley’s Good Eats, in-between my studies. As well as having a passion for all things nutrition, I also have a keen interest in sustainability. In the future, I would love to combine both of my passions and educate people in a dynamic and multifaceted way.