Every once in a while, there is a small issue that bothers me enough I have to write about it (although this one is actually not small in importance).
And today, that topic is fat-free foods for kids. As in, WHY do they exist?
The research here is clear – children who eat whole-fat foods have been consistently found to be thinner than their peers who grow up noshing on low-fat and fat-free products.
And that kind of research probably should have changed things by now, right? After all, childhood obesity is a national problem. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) puts its estimate of kids who are seriously overweight at about 20 percent. That is frankly tragic. Obesity carries a number of health risks for young people, not least among them a far greater likelihood of developing adult obesity, which can be life-threatening.
So WHY are there foods and drinks sitting on thousands of grocery store shelves across this great land that peddle fat-free or low-fat options to kids?
It sounds counterintuitive, but this is the truth: fat is good for kids. It’s good for their bodies, and it’s essential to their brains.
Did you know, for instance, that a toddler’s diet should be roughly 40 percent fat? And this is not just the case for kiddies. In 2014, researcher Nina Teichloz published The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong In a Healthy Diet. Her research led her to conclude that part of the obesity spikes in America and Western Europe may have come about from the rise in popularity of low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets.
The protein-centric Atkins diet works for a reason, though its overemphasis on unhealthy fats is definitely not healthy. Same goes for the Paleo diet, but at least that one tries to differentiate between types of good and bad fats. Both are far too restrictive; but their popularity suggests that at some level, we are getting the message that food fats are not the enemy.
But put all that aside for a moment, because the most important reasons kids need fat is that it is a non-negotiable for healthy brain development. The brain itself is at made up of at least 60 percent fat – 60 percent. Getting healthy fats – like DHA & Omega 3s – is crucial for the infant & toddler brain especially.
So when I see fat-free boxed milks, sitting there with their “Organic” label & looking otherwise all attractive and whatnot, it just makes me steam a little bit.
Where’s the whole milk option, Horizon?
This research is not new. But it might be new to you. So if you’re a parent, and you want to keep your child’s mental and physical health on the up and up, please, please – do not feed them fat-free or low-fat foods.
Thank you. End of spiel.
Image Credit: Flickr/Mike Mozart