Good Fats for Your Toddler's Brain Development

Healthy fats—especially docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA—are crucial for cognitive development in infants and toddlers. A study published in a 2010 edition of “Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids” reports that toddlers in the U.S. have low intakes of DHA. Increasing DHA may improve toddlers’ development and respiratory health. The Institute of Medicine recommends toddlers eat at least 700 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, which include DHA, EPA and ALA, each day. Offering your toddler a variety of good fats can help optimize his brain development.

Toddler Formulas

Similar to infant formulas, toddler formulas are fortified with omega-3 fatty acid DHA. Most toddler formulas are high in fat and rich in other essential nutrients--such as iron, antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals. Ask your pediatrician if toddler formula is appropriate for your child.

Organic Whole Milk

avocado in avocado püree

Healthy Fats for Underweight Toddlers

Learn More

Whole milk is rich in fat; about 50 percent of the calories in whole milk are fat calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory. Look for organic brands of whole milk—when possible—because they come from cows not treated with hormones or antibiotics. Some organic brands of whole milks are fortified with DHA.

Fish Oil

Fish oil is rich in omega-3s called DHA and EPA, which can help boost your toddler’s brain development. Look for purified fish oils that are free from harmful levels of contaminants, particularly mercury. Always ask your pediatrician before offering your toddler a supplement—including fish oil supplements—to determine dosing information and to make sure it’s appropriate for your toddler. If he meets his omega-3 requirements by consuming toddler formula or DHA-fortified whole milk, he may not need the additional supplement.


avocado in avocado püree

Are Eggs Harmful to Toddlers?

Learn More

Although avocados contain mainly monounsaturated fats—omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats—they are still a healthy source of fat beneficial for your toddler’s overall development. Keep in mind that healthy fats also contribute to your toddler’s total daily fat intake. The Institute of Medicine recommends toddlers ages 1 to 3 consume 30 to 40 percent of their daily calories from fat, which is 33 to 45 grams of fat per day for toddlers consuming 1,000-calorie diets. According to the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory, half an avocado provides your child with about 15 grams of healthy fats.