Essential nutrition: fat for babies

Why do babies need fat?

They need fat in their diet for energy for all the growing and learning they are doing. They also need fat because it contains vital vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.

Where does fat come from?

Fat comes from oils and spreads, dairy, meat, fish and alternative proteins, nuts, seeds, and some fruits and vegetables like avocado and coconut. The fat which comes from oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and trout are especially good as they contain omega 3 fats but don’t overdo it, a couple of portions is plenty per week. Oily fish can be quite expensive but frozen or tinned varieties are cheaper. Look for ones which don’t have added salt.

Should babies have low fat foods?

No. Their tummies are quite small compared with the amount of energy they need so they need more energy per 100g of food than an adult would. So, full fat dairy products are recommended. (Remember they don’t start having cow’s milk as a drink til they are 1 though).

What about saturated fat?

Like adults, they don’t need too much saturated fat as this is not great for heart health so taking off the visible fat from meat, not having too much butter or coconut oil is recommended. Rapeseed oil or olive oils are a better choice. If you look at the label of vegetable oil (usually the cheapest oil), you will often find this is rapeseed oil, you don’t need to by the cold pressed stuff unless you want to.

So where should babies get their fat from?

Give your baby a range of protein foods (including oily fish), full fat dairy, fruit and vegetables and starchy carbohydrates. They can have a limited amount of oil (preferably rapeseed or olive) in foods like when you make Bolognese or curry.

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