Your Guide to Good Fats: Introducing Fats to Fuel Your Baby Day 2: Your Guide to Good Fats

Your Guide to Good Fats: Introducing Fats to Fuel Your Baby

As babies begin their adventures with solid food and make new memories with family meals, it’s natural for you as a parent to worry whether your baby is absorbing the necessary nutrients from their diet. But do not fear, as we’re here with all the knowledge, science, research… and most importantly the steps and tips that help you translate this knowledge into action.

One of the essential nutrients we just looked at was iron. Let’s move on to nutrient #2: fat.

While it may seem counterintuitive, babies need fat in their diets to support their growth and development. In this chapter, you will get to know:

1. Why fat is so important for babies

2. What kinds of fats are best for their growing bodies

3. Which fat-rich foods can you include in your baby’s diet

Why Is Fat Important for Babies?

Energy: Fat is a dense source of energy, and it's a major source of energy for infants. In fact, you want about 40-50% of your baby's total calories to come from fat, especially for babies under one year old. So, don't be afraid to include healthy fats in your baby's diet!

Brain development: Did you know that fat supports brain function and neurological development? Research shows that 90% of brain development occurs in the first three years of a baby's life. And since brain matter is made of fat, it's essential to include fat in your baby's diet during this critical period.

Vitamin absorption: Finally, fat plays a crucial role in the absorption of certain vitamins, like A, D, E, and K. These vitamins are fat-soluble, which means they need to be consumed with fat to be well-absorbed by the body. So, including healthy fats in your baby's meals can help ensure they're getting all the vitamins they need to grow up healthy and strong.

Tip:

A good rule of thumb is to include a good fat source in your baby’s every meal.

What Kinds of Fats Are Best for Babies?

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that are crucial for your baby's growth and development. The three main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The body does not produce these fats, so you must ensure your baby consumes them through their diet. Omega-3 fats play a key role in the development of eyesight, brain, and cardiovascular system. They also have anti-inflammatory properties. Freshwater fish are a good source of EPA and DHA. Also, walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds contain ALA omega.

Studies have shown that children who have adequate omega-3 in their diet, especially DHA, are better at reading, have good short-term and long-term memory, and have less aggression. Omega-3 fatty acids help children’s emotional development.

Other Fats: Other fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are also important for your baby's health. These fats can be found in foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, and fish.

Best to Avoid

The fats to stay away from are trans fats which are found in a lot of pre-packaged foods such as pies, pastries, biscuits, and fried foods. Also, looking at the labels of packaged foods can help you make more informed choices.

Current Dietary Recommendation for Fat

For 0-12 months = 0.5 gm/day

For 1-3 years old = 0.7 gm/day

This will be achieved if the mom is getting her appropriate recommendations for DHA and is breastfeeding, or the baby has started solids and is eating 100 gms of DHA-rich foods per week (100 gms = 2/3rd cup).

We recommend including 2–3 servings per week of DHA and EPA-rich foods, which is roughly the size of the palm of your baby’s hand.

Which Fat-Rich Foods Can You Include in Your Baby’s Meals

Plenty of good fats from the very start of weaning is important and there are lots of ways to add fat by pairing with other foods. Here’s a list of fatty foods you can include:

  • Butter or ghee
  • Coconut oil and coconut cream
  • Avocado
  • Full fat milk and milk products like cheese, paneer, etc.
  • Nuts like walnuts and hazelnuts
  • Seeds like flax, chia, or pumpkin seeds
  • Nut powders and nut butters
  • Olives
  • Egg yolk
  • Dark meat, chicken, liver, mutton, and fatty fish
  • Here are some recipe ideas that would ensure your little one gets their daily dose of good fats!

  • Dal chawal or khichdi topped with ghee
  • Steamed veggies topped with butter
  • Pumpkin mashed with coconut cream
  • Idiyappam with coconut milk
  • Carrots cooked in ghee or coconut oil<
  • Whole milk with cream or curd (made from whole milk with cream)
  • Nut butters mixed in whole milk yogurt
  • Paneer paratha smeared with ghee
  • Tender chicken cooked with tomato and coconut milk
  • Fatty fish cooked with ghee or coconut oil
  • Did You Know?

  • DHA and EPA are naturally found in fatty fish such as salmon (rawas), mackerel (bangda), anchovies, sardines, herring (illish), and trout.
  • ALA, an essential fatty acid, is found in plant foods such as walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, and soya beans.
  • Certain brands of whole milk and eggs are also fortified with DHA, EPA and or ALA omega 3 fats.
  • Some baby foods are also selectively fortified with these fats, and can provide an additional source to help meet your baby’s age-appropriate needs.
  • Remember low fat options are not for babies and infants (that’s just for us adults!). Let your little ones enjoy the full fat richness of milk, cheese, and cream.

    Tomorrow, we’ll discover the healthy-filled world of Protein and Carbs and how your baby can get their fill of these nutrients from their food.