Essential Fats

Image from @bolfoods

Image from @bolfoods

This week Miriam asks partner paediatric dietician Bianca Parau about fats: the good, the bad and the ugly.

As parents we all want to know what healthy fats to include in our babies, or children's diets. So here is a quick Q&A, offering some more insight into fats: what to look for and what to avoid. Which are the best fats to cook with and some top tips on managing your families fat intake.

What’s the importance of fats to your babies’ diet in the first year?

Full fat foods and what I call "good fats" are crucial until the age of 2 years: for the brain, nervous system and eye development. Fats provide the most concentrated source of energy and babies need proportionately more fat in their diet than adults. Fats also help the body to absorb and store fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). For parents, the key is knowing which are the right fats to offer.

What are the different fats?

Unsaturated Fats

  • Found in plant foods and oily fish

  • Moderate amounts can benefit your health

Saturated Fats

  • Mainly from animal sources, but also some plant products

  • Too much can raise cholesterol levels

Trans Fats

  • Found in margarines, prepared and processed foods

  • To be avoided

Which fats should be avoided?

Processed fats, or trans fats, salted butter, too much saturated fat

Which fats to use when cooking?

Olive oils are my top recommendation. I also tell my clients to keep saturated fats i.e. coconut oil and butter for special occasions and use less often, to enrich their cooking.  

What are the best cooking techniques for food: for example, roasting with fats, or steaming with no fat

I recommend to my clients to try and not to stick to just one cooking method: variety in cooking methods is ideal

Should we be adding fats to our food?

Not as a standard: I would recommend only adding fat when it should be used in recipes i.e. brushing vegetables with olive oil to grill them, or when cooking meat. When choosing fats it is best to opt for good fat rich foods i.e. avocado and salmon

When buying oils, what should parents look out for: cold pressed, extra virgin, organic etc.

Any good quality oil, it does not have to be organic. Opt for pure olive oil and not blends. Extra virgin olive oils have no extra benefit when cooked, so save them for dressing salads or vegetables.


  • Avoid low fat products (i.e. yogurts) as they may have added sugars: check labels and always opt for full fat products with no additives, offer these to children in smaller quantities (allergy dependent)

  • Opt for natural “fat rich foods” such as, avocado and salmon

  • Use saturated fats i.e. coconut oil and butter for special occasions

  • Reduce saturated fats by swapping fatty meats (e.g. high fat mince meat) for leaner options

Bianca Parau 2.jpg

This nutrition feature was written by parent Miriam Cooper, in conjunction with paediatric dietician Bianca Parau. Miriam is a mother of two, but is not medically trained and therefore has partnered with Bianca on this content. She speaks from her own experiences only.

Please always consult with your own Health Care Advisor on medical issues relating to your child.

As background, Bianca offers expert advice and nutritional guidance to children and their families. Her NHS clinical role at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital includes a specialist multidisciplinary feeding clinic, for children with eating problems, often resulting from a history of gastrointestinal problems and food allergy

for more information please visit

NutritionMiriam Cooper