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It's not really necessary to count the grams of fat in your healthy toddler's diet. Fat has a pretty bad reputation in the nutrition world, but it's actually an essential part of every cell in your body.
And because babies and toddlers are growing rapidly, they need to take in more energy than their older siblings. Dietary fat is a concentrated source of energy that's necessary in a young child's diet to meet those needs.
Babies naturally get more fat because breast milk and formula are higher in fat. So when a child starts to eat more solid food and drink less breast milk or formula, the composition of her diet begins to change to a more balanced ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children should continue to drink whole milk and eat full-fat dairy products until age 2 to help meet their energy needs. After that, the AAP suggests switching children to low-fat versions of dairy products, including skim or 1 percent milk.
But instead of focusing on how much fat your child eats, concentrate on providing a healthy mix of different types of healthy (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) fats.
Including a variety of healthy monounsaturated fats helps improve blood cholesterol levels – which is important even early in life. Provide kid-friendly sources of monounsaturated fats, such as avocado, nut butters, and olive oil. Polyunsaturated fats contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for young children's heart health and brain development. You can get these fats from such foods as salmon, ground flaxseed, and walnuts.
But do watch how much saturated fat (most often found in animal products) your child gets. A high amount of saturated fat is linked to certain chronic diseases, including heart disease. And trans fat, found in some animal fats as well as processed or "partially hydrogenated" oils, have been shown to increase unhealthy cholesterol levels and decrease healthy cholesterol counts.
Continue to provide a healthy, balanced diet for your child, and watch her grow into a nutritious eater. If you have concerns about your child's weight or food intake, talk with her healthcare provider or a registered dietitian.