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.
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
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 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.
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.
- Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids: Toddler Formula Supplemented with Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) Improves DHA Status and Respiratory Health in a Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Trial of US Children Less Than 3 Years of Age
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory: Nutrient Data for 01077, Milk, Whole, 3.25% Milkfat, with Added Vitamin D
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory: Nutrient Data for 09037, Avocados, Raw, All Commercial Varieties