How much fat do babies need in their diets?
For decades dietary fat has been enemy #1 to those interested in health. It has been considered the cause of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and many other health problems. But now it seems that much of this blame has been misplaced. Many types of fat have a positive roll in health. And nowhere is that more true than in childhood development.
Children grow. That is what they do. Their brains and bodies need large amounts of fat in order to develop to their full potential. That is not to say that children should be fat, but that their diets should contain lots of fat. Here are three sources which all agree that young children should get 50% of their calories from fat!
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Smart fats for growing brains
Fats can also influence brain development and performance, especially at either end of life — growing infants and elderly people. In fact, there are two windows of time in which the brain is especially sensitive to nutrition: the first two years of life for a growing baby and the last couple decades of life for a senior citizen. Both growing and aging brains need nutritious fats.
The most rapid brain growth occurs during the first year of life, with the infant’s brain tripling in size by the first birthday. During this stage of rapid central nervous system growth, the brain uses sixty percent of the total energy consumed by the infant. Fats are a major component of the brain cell membrane and the myelin sheath around each nerve. So, it makes sense that getting enough fat, and the right kinds of fat, can greatly affect brain development and performance. In fact, during the first year, around fifty percent of an infant’s daily calories come from fat. Mother Nature knows how important fat is for babies; fifty percent of the calories in mother’s milk is fat.
As a general rule, your child should get about half of her daily calories from fat up to the age of 2 years.
Infants, Toddlers Should Not Restrict Fat Intake, Experts Say
Watkins and Hennig, however, suggest that we should not restrict fat until 5 years of age, and then reduce it gradually throughout childhood and teen years. They say that limiting dietary fat to less than 30 percent of total calories in young children may reduce growth and lead to nutritional shortages.
How much fat does your baby get? Now that we have established the amount of fat your baby needs, we will look at how much fat Gerber wants your baby to eat.