Why are healthy fats so important for children?
A recent tabloid article berating mums for giving their children fish fingers and all the funny #solidaritea responses on social media made me cross, laugh and feel better about myself all at once. I know in many circles there is much pearl clutching about giving kids fish fingers. However, when you have a fussy eater to contend with, your life becomes a series of pragmatic decisions. This photograph is of my son aged 18 months eating fish fingers as this was one of the four meals he would eat at that time. Of course it would be better if your child happily ate mackerel pate but if you don't have a mackerel pate eating child then fish fingers do contain some omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Omega-3 and other healthy fats are indeed essential for children. These fats are crucial for brain growth and development, for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K, and for lowering the impact of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Fat helps keep children feeling full, it helps with energy levels and as adults we know it just makes food taste better. Who can eat a baked potato without butter? These healthy fats are found in fish but also in nuts, seeds, avocados and coconut oil.
How to include healthy fats in your child's diet?
Getting kids to eat these foods can however be tricky and in some parent's cases (mine) a jaw clenching (literally) nightmare. So what can you do? If you have a child that is a good eater then it can be relatively easy to add them into your child's diet with or without fish fingers. Salmon and other oily fish are good straight-forward options, guacamole with vegetable sticks ticks the avocado box and you can add coconut oil to smoothies, soups and casseroles. Nuts and seeds can be added to home made energy bars and coconut yoghurt is a good option for a dessert.
And then we come to the children that the parents of the good eaters can't comprehend. These are the kids who treat every new food as if you have laced it with arsenic and think eating something 'mushy' like a casserole is a punishment worse than turning off the wi-fi. Soup isn't happening, smoothies are a no and handing over a bowl of guacamole would just be so ridiculous it isn't even worth attempting. The parents of these children know that it is a battle you lose three or four times a day. Every day.
Over the years, I have learnt that once you accept you can't win this battle and take a different approach you might have a chance of winning the war. I believe this means starting from where the child is at, working with them and accepting it is going to take baby steps whilst playing the long game. For me, this has meant accepting my child will not easily eat any new 'wet' food. I now always start with 'dry' food and then build upon it. My son has recently had to eat a lot more healthy fats due to healing gut issues. This is an ongoing process and it has taken a lot of trial and error but after a few weeks I have found the following foods and recipes have been successful ways to get healthy fats into his diet.
Stealth Ninja tips
I am still working hard to find more ideas and recipes to include a broader range of healthy fats. I still haven't worked out how to include avocado. Anything my son eats has to definitely not look green or be in anyway squishy which is a tough ask for an avocado but the Ninja in me will not give up. I hope you find some of these tips and recipes useful. Any other suggestions will be very gratefully received in the comments section below!