Sources of Fats for Toddlers
During the toddler years, typically defined as ages 1 to 3, your child needs an appropriate level of fat in her diet to maintain her growth and development. A child between the ages of 1 and 2 needs to get about half of her calories from fat, and you can gradually decrease this percentage to about a third of her daily calories by the time she reaches 4 years old. However, it's best if most of your toddler's fat intake comes from healthy monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats instead of unhealthy saturated or trans fats. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, fat and cholesterol should not be restricted in children under 2 years old. A fat intake of less than 20 percent can lead to delayed growth.
Omega-6 fats contribute to skin and hair growth, bone health, brain function and metabolism. Children between the ages of 1 and 3 need about 7,000 milligrams of omega-6 fats per day. Omega-6 fats are found in most cooking oils. One teaspoon of safflower oil contains 3,360 milligrams of omega-6 fats, and the same amount of corn oil contains 2,400 milligrams of omega-6 fats. Because these oils are commonly used in cooked and processed foods, including sautéed foods, stir-fried dishes and baked goods, most toddlers get more than enough omega-6 fats in their regular diets.
Omega-3 fats are necessary for brain development and the development of the retina, especially during infancy and early childhood. Children between the ages of 1 and 3 need about 700 milligrams of omega-3 fats per day. Omega-3 fats are not as prevalent in most people's diets as other fats are, so you may need to make special effort to ensure your toddler gets enough. Good sources of omega-3 fats include fish, flaxseed, tofu and eggs or milk fortified with omega-3 fats. One tablespoon of flaxseed contains over 1,500 milligrams of omega-3 fats, and 4 ounces of tofu contain 300 milligrams. Atlantic sardines contain 144 milligrams of the omega-3 fat DHA per ounce, and salmon contains between 186 and 413 milligrams per ounce, depending on the specific variety. If your toddler is still breastfeeding, breast milk is also an excellent source of omega-3 fats.
Monounsaturated fats can contribute to a healthy heart and are ideal for use in cooking. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat, with 9,800 milligrams per tablespoon. Canola oil also has high levels of monounsaturated fat, with 8,800 milligrams per tablespoon. Avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fat for toddlers. They contain 19 grams of monounsaturated fat in a single avocado and also contain plenty of vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, niacin and vitamins C, E and A. There is no specific recommended amount of monounsaturated fats necessary in a toddler's daily diet, but monounsaturated fats are a healthy form of fat that parents can include to help make up the total fat requirement in their child's diet.
Saturated and Trans Fats
Saturated fats are typically found in animal products, including beef, chicken, pork and dairy products. Cheese, whole milk and full-fat yogurt are considered healthy foods for toddlers because of their high calcium content, even though they are high in saturated fat as well. Low-fat dairy products should not be served to toddlers under the age of 2 because consuming these products can lower their overall fat intake to levels below the 50 percent recommendation. Trans fats are found in processed foods, margarine and baked goods. They are created during the cooking process and can contribute to heart disease later in life. Foods with lots of trans fats, such as chips and cookies, also tend to be low in nutrients. Avoid serving your child highly processed foods that contain trans fats and focus on more nutritious whole foods with plenty of healthy fats.
- Healthy Children: Feeding and Nutrition: Your One-Year-Old
- American Family Physician: Nutrition in Toddlers
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-6 Fats
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated Fats
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Oil, Olive
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Oil, Canola
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Avocados