Your children need fat: it’s a fact. Fats have been described in ‘Optimum Nutrition for your child’s Mind’ * as ‘the mind’s construction crew’: they are critical nutrients for brain development and will partly determine how mentally, physically and emotionally intelligent your child is.
If children are getting most of their fats from meat and dairy produce they may be missing out on the essential omega 3 and omega 6 oils that the body cannot make. This may make it difficult for them to concentrate, prone to dyspraxia and hyperactivity, and also increase their tendency to eczema.
So how can we make sure our children get enough healthy fats for optimum health?
Firstly, pay a visit to your local fishmonger or large supermarket where there is a good selection of fresh oily fish. Sardines, mackerel, tuna and herring are simple to grill or bake in the oven and serve with potato wedges and vegetables or salad. Tinned tuna is a very popular sandwich filling today but it does not have the same high levels of omega 3 oils that fresh tuna does. Treat your children to a fresh tuna steak once in a while.
If your child won’t eat oily fish, try using seed oils: flaxseed and hemp seed oils are rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA) which can be converted by the body to the essential omega 3 EPA and DHA oils. They can be used to make hummus, a teaspoon or two can be added to fruit smoothies, they can be drizzled over vegetables just before serving, or used in salad dressings. One word of warning however; some children are unable to convert ALA into EPA and DHA very efficiently and if this is the case they would certainly benefit from taking a regular fish oil supplement.
Lastly, don’t forget the humble egg. Eggs contain special fats called phospholipids and these are found in the myelin sheaths that cover all nerves, helping to ensure the fast transmission of impulses from one neurone to another. Give your child’s memory a head start next week by cooking a poached egg on toast for breakfast or popping some egg sandwiches into their packed lunch.
*Optimum Nutrition for your child’s Mind’ by Patrick Holford and Deborah Colson 2006