The importance of fat intake during childhood

Fat is an essential part of a healthy diet. It’s the main source of energy and, for growing children, this macronutrient is especially important. But, as we have discussed on many occasions, not all types of fat are equally healthy. Therefore, if we want our children to stay in good health, it’s necessary to know the importance of fat intake during childhood, and what should be the main source of it at each stage.

What you should know about the influence of fat for growing children.

  1. What role does fat play in their development?
  2. Where should the fat they eat come from?
  3. How to include extra virgin olive oil in their diet?

1. What role does fat play in their development?

Despite its bad reputation, fats are essential elements for the body and their contribution is only made through diet. Fat has an important structural function as it provides the fatty acids and cholesterol necessary to form cell membranes in all organs. In fact, some of these organs are made up primarily of fat.

Thus, the consumption of fat is highly relevant during childhood and adolescence, that is, during the growth and development stage, although it remains important in adulthood. It is for this reason that we must pay special attention to the lipids that we consume, that is, to the foods that include fat and their quality, especially if we want to provide the best nutrition for our children.

2. Where should the fat they eat come from?

The main source of fat administration will depend on the growth stage:

2.1. For babies up to two years old.

The main contribution of fat will be breast milk, which, although it has a variable fat component depending on the stage of lactation and other factors, contains the nutrients that the baby needs the most. More specifically, breast milk contains factors that will help babies digest fat and get energy. Besides, it contains Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and oleic acid essential for the development of organs. In fact, will still be needing this elements in adulthood.

During the first year, the fat content of the baby’s body will increase from 16% to 25%. This fat is necessary as an energy reserve against the different processes and common diseases that the little one goes through. For this reason, when starting complementary feeding to breast milk, it’s important to bear in mind a sufficient intake of fat.

Thus, and always under the supervision of the pediatrician, besides the usual vegetables, greens and cereals given to 6 months-old babies, it’s possible to incorporate extra virgin olive oil in its nutrition. This will help newborns meeting energy requirement they need and take advantage of its many long-term benefits. Otherwise, with only of vegetables, the fat intake of the baby would be insufficient.

2.2. For children from 2 to 6 years old.

From two years of age, lipids are still essential, although the body’s fat content drops to remain at 12 to 15% of body weight until adolescence. In this stage, fat, especially unsaturated, is important to guarantee stable growth and adequate mental and nervous system development.

For this reason, pediatric associations recommend still using extra virgin olive oil as the main fat as breast milk is withdrawn. This source of fat along with other foods that provide a greater amount of unsaturated fatty acids (monounsaturated or Omega 9 and polyunsaturated or Omega 3 and 6) will be important for children and their growth.

2.3. From 6 years onwards.

Obviously, extra virgin olive oil is not the only source of healthy fat. There is a series of fatty foods that complement a balanced diet such as the Mediterranean diet and that are especially interesting to introduce into the diet even before 6 years of age.

If you want to know them more in depth and learn what types of fat exist and which ones are more recommended to include in yours and your children’s, visit our article on fats where you will learn what type of fatty foods are more nutritious and healthy.

3. How to include extra virgin olive oil in their diet?

Thus, as we have mentioned, from 6 months of age it’s recommended that children consume olive oil, always extra virgin. But how to include it in their diet? For example, when you start complementary feeding to breast milk, you can make a pure with potatoes and carrots and right before feeding your baby, include the amount equivalent to a teaspoon of this crude olive oil.

However, it is true that accustoming such a young child to its consumption is not always going to be easy. Extra virgin olive oil has a distinctive flavor that you have to get used to, for this reason the most optimal variety to administer during childhood is Arbequina. Its flavor is not as intense as other varieties, so it’s the best option with which to start children in the consumption of extra virgin olive oil.

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