Kids Desperately Need Fat (But Not the Kind Most Are Eating)

photo-jul-01-9-40-50-am-300x300-3125586The “low fat” craze has been a disaster for human health. Worse, the experts told us, “If you do eat fat, each processed vegetable oils and margarine.”

That’s a recipe for increased inflammation, poor gut health, decreased nutrient absorption, and obesity. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing across the board in health outcomes.

Kids aren’t escaping it. While you might not be putting your child on a low fat diet (if you are, please stop immediately), they’re likely eating gobs of these processed vegetable oils that people still seem to think are good for you.

These vegetable and seed oils are in all processed foods and used for cooking in almost all restaurants. Every time you order chicken fingers for your child, they’re getting a nice serving of inflammatory soybean oil. You’re probably cooking with these fake fats at home as well. Canola anyone? Yuck.

It’s an epidemic that’s been manufactured by the perfect storm of bad research and government subsidies. Many children are eating nothing but highly processed fats, rarely coming into contact with the fats they desperately need.

This isn’t helped by the tunnel vision we seem to have with getting kids to eat vegetables because we’re usually afraid of putting fat on those vegetables (which doesn’t help the sell) or we’re putting fake fats on them. I can’t believe it’s not butter! 

Why does the discussion about kids’ health never talk about highly beneficial and very simple swaps like the fat swap? It’s one of the easiest and most beneficial changes to make as far as cooking goes because there’s no difference in the flavor of what kids are eating. You’re simply swapping out a fake ingredient for a real one. Often, the flavor improves with this swap.

The bottom line is that kids need fat. And it needs to be mostly saturated (yes, absolutely) and monounsaturated. The brain is 70% fat. Most of the key vitamins are fat soluble, meaning that they’re poorly absorbed in the absence of fat. But the fats kids are getting (when they do get some) are mostly polyunsaturated fats that drive up inflammation and markers of disease.

Quick tips

  1. Swap margarine for grass-fed butter (Kerrygold brand is available almost everywhere). Don’t bother with conventional butter. Yes, grass-fed is more expensive in the short-term, but your child’s health is worth a buck.
  2. For many things, cooking with coconut oil is preferred. Make sure it’s virgin, organic, and unrefined. Kids need to be eating coconut oil every day. It’s a very unique and beneficial fat. My daughter eats it off a spoon half the time.
  3. You can also cook in well-sourced tallow, lard (yes, lard), etc. These are good options for frying.
  4. Throw out all processed vegetable and seed oils. If it’s not listed on my Rebooted Body Complete Guide to Real Food, then toss it.
  5. Find ways to get your children to eat healthy oils like Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Making your own salad dressings with it is a great start. Be aware, though, that most store-bought versions of EVOO are cut and tainted with cheap processed vegetable oils. You need to invest in the good stuff. I prefer Kasandrinos brand. Oh, and don’t cook with it except at extremely low heat.
  6. Don’t be afraid of eggs or grass-fed beef. Incorporate them often. And with eggs, never toss the yolks!
  7. Avocado!

A not so quick tip…

It’s important that you get processed foods out of your child’s life for the most part. Don’t be a health Nazi and ban everything in the world, but don’t be a supplier either.

Processed foods are deadly because they’re hyperpalatable, meaning they contain a combination of fat (the nasty kind), sugar, and salt that doesn’t exist anywhere in nature.

This hyperpalatability desensitizes your child’s tastebuds, making real food taste bland and ensures that they’ll eat nothing but kids menu garbage and stuff out of a box for a long time to come.

Aside from that, processed foods destroy hormone regulation, damage the gut, promote obesity, and drive up disease markers. Not the direction we want to go.

And no, gluten-free, sugar-free, or low-fat processed foods are not “better options.” Gluten free and sugar-free foods still usually contain inflammatory fats, along with a bunch of other nasties. And these foods are still hyperpalatable (which is why you really hoped they were okay).

Redefine “normal.”

The normalization of processed food is one of our society’s biggest obstacles.

The goal is not to be perfect, it’s to redefine what’s normal for your child. “Normal” shouldn’t be laboratory foods and inflammatory fats. “Normal” shouldn’t be the avoidance of fat. “Normal” shouldn’t be counting calories.

Normal should be whole foods and healthy fats, including saturated fats which are highly beneficial and will not make your child’s heart explode. Pinky swear.

If you want to make a HUGE change in your child’s health without much resistance, swap the fats and start working on limiting the processed foods.

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