Fat is one of the ingredients of food consumed by any individual whether child or adult. Theories have changed over time about the necessity of consumption of fat and consequential effect on the human body. Fat consumed by an individual is converted by the body into energy necessary for active life. It is a fact that if fat is consumed and not converted into energy, it gets stored in the body, resulting in obesity. Despite the fear of obesity, it is necessary that fat is a part of the diet of each child. The quantity differs from child to child. Under similar circumstances girls will require lesser quantity of fat as compared to boys.
Researchers have pointed out that fat should be an integral part of the balanced diet of toddlers and children as they burn more fat than adults, while doing the same amount of physical work or in relation to the amount of energy used. Sufficient quantity of fat should be a part of the diet of a child so that the child has natural growth and development. Giving low fat and low sugar food to children is not a good idea but excess of it is also bad.
The food of the child should have a balance of fat and nutrients. These inputs will be used by the body to build tissues and hormones. Healthy development of tissues is necessary for proper development of the brain and nervous system. Fat also provides necessary fuel to the body to maintain activity. Excess intake is stored by natural action for use at a time when there is deficiency in intake. This should never mean that excess of fat is consumed for future use, as this is a cause of obesity from which the developed world is suffering and obesity is spreading like an epidemic.
The source of fat for kids and teen aged children are desserts and snack food. These items contain adequate quantity of fat. Similarly, whole fat milk given to children provides the body necessary quantity of fat. Though in small quantities, fat is also used in domestic cooking. Children should be encouraged to eat home cooked food as it is a rich source of fats, vitamins, minerals and proteins.
Good facts about fat
Fat helps absorption of vitamins from the food we eat. Vitamin A, D, E and K are fat soluble. These act as building blocks for hormones. When a child eats food containing fat along with vitamins, these gets absorbed and used for the development of the body, tissues and nervous system.
Fat helps a child get a feeling of fullness and reduces the quantity of food intake, or rather prevents overeating. Fat provides double the number of calories to the body as compared to carbohydrates. This is the reason for the experts to suggest a balanced fatty food intake by kids as energy is required for overall development of the child.
Classification of fats:
Fats which a child eats can be broadly classified into three parts. These are:
Unsaturated fat is provided to the human body by the edible plants and fish. This fat is good for a healthy heart. Unsaturated fat can be monounsaturated fat found in olives, peanuts etc. Polyunsaturated fat is found in vegetable oils used for cooking and omega 3 fat found in some varieties of fish like tuna and salmon.
Saturated fat is found in meat and animal extracts like milk, cheese and butter. Saturated fat directly results in increase in blood cholesterol which is bad for arteries and heart. Other sources of saturated fat are coconut and palm oil used for commercial cooking purposes and these should be avoided for the children.
The third type of fat is Trans fat. This is found in abundance in snack food and fast food available in market. This is created when oil is hydrogenated. Like saturated fat trans fat also increases the level of cholesterol in blood. In the developed world it has been made mandatory to mention on the packaging the existence of trans fat in packed food. This should be avoided and the child should be discouraged to eat fast foods.
The quantity of fat required by a child differs from a child to child. Parents should keep in mind that food or fat intake does not result in the child gaining excessive weight. Food with a lot of exercise and outdoor games will help the child during future life.