Healthy fat foods are some of the best foods that we can feed to our kids! They are critical for brain and nervous system development AND we need fats to help us absorb critical vitamins and phytonutrients (nutrients from plants).
Unfortunately, fat has gotten a really bad rap for a long time. It’s nice to see that over the last ten years, it’s been making a comeback! Healthy fat is absolutely critical for our health and in the health of our growing and developing children.
Through three pregnancies (and while nursing), the one supplement that I took every single day was fish oil with DHA–an omega-3 fatty acid essential for brain development during pregnancy and early childhood. I’m grateful I did, as I see the effects that it had on my two older kids, and their teachers often comment on their intelligence. And now that they’re older, I always try to include healthy fat foods for every single one of their meals.
In a previous post on personalized nutrition, I shared how I experimented with many different ways of eating–from vegan to keto and everything in between. While ultimately a ketogenic diet works best for me, what I found across all ways of eating is that when I eliminated processed foods and sugar and added in healthy fat foods, I felt AMAZING!
Healthy Fats Versus Unhealthy Fats
There are several different types of fat: polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated, and trans fats.
Polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and grass-fed saturated fats are healthy. These fats help the body by:
- Developing the brain and nervous system
- Giving us energy
- Helping us to absorb fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) and most phytonutrients in other foods Building hormones
- Helping our cell membranes to function at their best
Trans fats and saturated fats from conventionally raised animals (grain-fed not grass-fed) are unhealthy fats. Trans fats and wreak havoc on the body because they can’t be broken down by the body. They accumulate in our blood vessels leading to heart attacks and strokes. They should be avoided at all costs.
Saturated fats that don’t come from grass-fed sources are similar to trans fats. Saturated fats are not quite as harmful as trans fats as we are able to break it down in our bodies, but saturated fats can be very inflammatory. They’re also high in Omega 6 fatty acids because corn and grain cause inflammation in the cow and when we eat it, we inherit the inflammation.
Here are some examples of each type of fat:
- Polyunsaturated fat: omega 3s (DHA and EPA) nuts, seeds, and fish.
- Monounsaturated fat: avocadoes, olives, olive oil and nuts.
- Grass-fed saturated fats: grass-fed butter, ghee, grass-fed meat and coconut oil.
- Grain-fed or conventionally raised saturated fats: beef pumped with hormones and antibiotics and fed something other than their natural food: grass.
- Trans fat: processed foods, margarine, most fried foods, most microwave popcorn
Remember to ask
What did this animal eat before I ate it? Hormones, antibiotics, corn and grain all cause inflammation and destruction in the animal’s body, and it hurts us too when we put that lower quality meat or butter into our bodies. You can ask this question with plants too. What did my carrots “eat”?
NOTE: Not all fried food is bad. The bigger issue with fried foods is making sure you use a pure oil with a high smoke point. If you go over the smoke point then oxidation occurs which causes free radicals. Free radicals wreak havoc on the body and damage cells. And this process can create trans fats as well.
CAUTION: Just because a label says “Zero Trans Fat,” it doesn’t mean there is no trans fat. Labeling laws allow food companies to round down to zero and claim “No Trans Fat” if the amount per serving is less than 0.5 grams. So how do you know? Look at the ingredient list. Most trans fats come from hydrogenated oil–a product that Big Food often adds as a preservative. If there is “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” anything in the ingredient list…There are Trans Fats!!!
Ten Healthy Fat Foods to Feed to Your Kids
So now that we have that out of the way, here the real goods! Below are 10 foods that contain lots of healthy fats and brands that I like and trust:
Avocados have mostly monounsaturated fats, and they are packed with almost 20 vitamins and minerals. Avocados have more potassium than bananas. They are unique fruits that contain MORE fats than carbohydrates. In comparison, most fruits contain mostly carbohydrates. Scrape the peel clean to make sure you get all the goodies! Most of the antioxidants are located in the darker green flesh found closest to the peel.
Olives are my daughter’s favorite food and Tarek loves munching on olives and pistachios in the morning! Many people are concerned that olives contain too much salt. Salt is an essential mineral that keeps us alive.
You will never have a problem of eating too much salt in naturally occurring food or if you control the salt you add. Even though olives and brine have salt, you’d have to eat A LOT of olives to overdo it. The problem with too much salt, is caused by processed foods since it has so much salt in small quantities with little nutritional value!
Olives contain polyphenols, a natural chemical that neutralizes unstable free radicals that can harm the brain. Some health experts say that by eating a daily serving of olives a day, you can help improve your memory. One of my favorite brands of olives is the Greek Mix by Divina. We open a can and put them in a glass bowl in our refrigerator. Usually they are gone in two days.
CAUTION: Big food severely manipulates the “food” they sell. They remove most of the fat to extend their products’ shelf life (fats tend to go rancid fast) or to label the food as low-fat. But then because the food taste very bland, they add a ton of salt and sugar to enhance the flavor…And also get us addicted.
Olive oil is liquid gold. It is mostly monounsaturated fats that provide sustained energy and much more. Don’t cook with olive oil. When you heat it up, it loses all its beneficial properties.
Instead, find fun ways to consume it raw. Put it over your roasted veggies, make pesto, drizzle over pasta, or make an easy salad dressing with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), lemon juice, maple syrup and salt. Your kids can dip anything into it: bread, carrots, cucumbers… My kids take pieces of spinach and dip into the dressing and eat it.
Our family favorite is raw macadamia nuts. They are a little sweet, and they contain a large amount of monounsaturated fat. They are also beneficial for the gut. Nuts are super convenient when traveling and make great snacks when you are out and about. Avoid nuts that are processed, roasted, flavor roasted, and sugar coated. Always buy raw. When you roast nuts it diminishes the health properties. When my kids get up early and want to eat before I have breakfast ready, I give them nuts to snack on. My favorite brand that I trust is Aurora and Sunfood Superfoods.
Grass-Fed Butter and Ghee
Butter is so easy. It’s great to cook with, in place of any oils, and you can add it to almost any hot dish for an extra boost of fat and energy. Plus it contains butyrate, a short-term fatty acid that does wondrous things for the body!
Grass-fed cows produce more nutritious butter. Grass-fed butter has a healthier fatty acid profile, with more omega-3 fatty acids compared to conventional butters. In short: invest in Grass-Fed Butter! Either pay a few dollars now or many dollars later to doctors and pharmaceutical companies. One of my favorite brands of butter is by Vital Farms. My favorite brand of ghee is 4th and Heart and another wonderful brand is Goddess Ghee.
80/20 Grass-Fed Hamburger Meat
I remember when we used to look for the hamburger meat with the least amount of fat! Tables have turned and now I look for the package with the most fat. That extra fat is good for us, plus it tastes amazing!
Grass-fed hamburger meat is easy to find nowadays, and it’s not as expensive when you buy it in bulk. Even better: if you can find a local farmer you can buy directly from them either in a CSA or at a market. Grass-fed hamburger meat is a staple in our house for dinner. We make burgers, spaghetti, tacos, and so much more.
We even have a meal called BOG: Bowl of Goodness. It’s super easy to make: we just saute the hamburger meat and add whatever we have in the fridge to it! Mushrooms, sweet potatoes, broccoli, peas, carrots, sauce, garlic, etc!
Coconut is my son’s favorite. I buy the brand: Native Forest, No GUAR, and use it for everything. I steam it for my morning coffee, and the kids have a no-coffee steamer with honey and cinnamon or a hot chocolate with raw organic cacao powder.
We use coconut milk to make stews, ice cream, popsicles, and sometimes my son just eats it out of the can! If you want the real liquid gold of coconut, check out MCT oil. I recommend the Bulletproof brand. Put a teaspoon into your kids hot chocolate; some experts say that it’s the ultimate brain food!
Salmon contains omega-3s which is great food for our brain and heart. If you can, make this part of your weekly dinner plan. Roast salmon and veggies on a baking pan and make some rice to serve as a side.
Change up the spices on your fish. Add lemon or orange slices on top to change up the flavor. Recently we spread pesto on the top of the salmon for the last minute of baking and it was delicious!
When buying, look for wild Alaskan salmon–Alaska manages its fisheries sustainably and wild salmon is free from the hormones and antibiotics that you often find in farmed fish. Safe Catch is a good brand for canned salmon.
Find ways to change it up: hard boiled, scrambled, omelets, frittatas. Giving your kids a breakfast filled with healthy fats instead of sugar will give them more sustained energy for the day, as well as a more stable mood and increased focus throughout the day.
Yogurt is another easy snack that is super versatile. Always buy plain full-fat yogurt and buy grass-fed and organic where you can. Many yogurt brands are often heavily processed and full of sugar and high fructose corn syrup, so avoid yogurts with added sugar. My family’s favorite brand is Maple Hill.
If you are pressed for time in the morning: try yogurt topped with any of your favorite ingredients like: full fat raw coconut flakes, raw local honey, fresh or dried fruit, seeds, chocolate chips (use 70% raw cacao–I like the brand Hu). Yogurt is also great for baking and to use in dips and salad dressing. My kids love fun fruit dips!
What are your favorite healthy fat foods and how do you serve them? I’d love to learn from you!
Also, check out our SuperHero Foods Resource Guide to learn more about avocados, eggs, coconuts, and more! Learn more about the benefits of each of these SuperHero foods, how to eat them, where to buy them, and more!