Good Fats for a 14-month-old

QUESTION

Dear Nutritionist,
Hi. My 14-month-old son, who has a dairy allergy, is a very picky eater. I know fats are good for babies so I've been trying to get him to eat veggies cooked in olive oil, peanut butter, etc. But he hates veggies, squishes his PBJs and loathes avocado. He thrives on crackers and other dry foods (has some texture issues as well). How can I get fats into him?

Thanks!
Christa

ANSWER

There are mostly saturated fats or animal fats in dairy products. It is actually polyunsaturated fats (omega 3 fatty acids) that are important for brain development so not consuming dairy products won't effect his "healthy" fat intake. If the toddler is eating a variety of foods particularly table foods and is growing well I would not worry so much about the fat content of his diet.

One suggestion though, if you are worried about "healthy fat" intake would be soy milk and soy yogurts (make sure they contain NO milk proteins). Soy is a good source of the "healthy fats". Other suggestions include:

  • Nut butters (perhaps he will prefer almond butter or cashew butter?)
  • Avocado and olives (some young children actually like them)
  • Tofu (soft tofu mashes well into other foods)
  • Homemade baked goods made with healthy oils and nut butters
  • Added vegetable oils to applesauce, pudding, macaroni, etc.
  • Dairy free full-fat (not "diet") tub margarines (Earth Balance and Soy Garden are both dairy free, trans fat free, and delicious) as a butter substitute
  • Broiled fish or "natural" fish sticks (Ian's makes a dairy-free frozen fish stick)

It is sometimes recommended not to give children under 3 years of age peanuts due to possible allergies. Some experts suggest not giving children any type of nuts before this age especially if there is a history of nut allergies in either parent. This decision should be up to the pediatrician and parents.

It is important to get your child retested for allergies as he gets older. Many children grow out of allergies as their digestive system matures.Children can be very picky eaters. They can go through something called "food jags" where they did like something and now they don't. Don't worry too much. Children will get what their body needs because at that age their needs are so small. If you are worried about your child's intake I would highly suggest speaking to your pediatrician.

-- Kimberly, RD LD

Kimberly Tessmer

Kimberly A. Tessmer, RD LD has been a registered dietitian since 1992 and is also an Ohio licensed Dietitian. Her educational achievements include a Bachelor of Science in Technology (Dietetics) from Bowling State University in Bowling Green, OH. She currently owns and operates a consulting business called "Nutrition Focus" www.nutrifocus.net, in which she specializes and offers services in the areas of weight management, general nutrition, authoring, menu development and a variety of other services.

To date Kim has authored three books including "The Everything® Nutrition Book", "Tell Me What To Eat If I Have Celiac Disease", and "The Everything® Pregnancy Nutrition Book". In addition, Kim has written numerous articles for various health/nutrition web sites and magazines including Bally Total Fitness Magazine, Well and Healthy Women Magazine and Healthology.com, Inc as well as continuing education courses for www.care2learn.com. She is a member of the American Dietetic Association and the ADA Practice Group, Nutrition Entrepreneurs.