1. Toddlers
  2. Nutrition & fitness
  3. Nutrients

Good and bad fat: tips for getting the balance right

All ages

Try these ideas to get a healthy balance of good and bad fats in your family’s daily diet.

More good fats, fewer bad fats

Good fats give our bodies energy, and your child needs them to grow and develop. Bad fats make our bodies produce bad cholesterol, which can lead to health problems.

Our article on good fats and bad fats explains which foods have the right fats for a healthy diet. And try our tips below to get more good fats into your family’s diet while cutting down on bad fats.

Good fats and bad fats: tips for family eating

1. Give your child full-fat dairy foods when he first starts on solids
Your child needs the energy from full-fat dairy foods to help with growth and development until he’s about two years old. Reduced-fat dairy doesn’t have enough vitamins and energy for children under two.

2. Offer reduced-fat milk and dairy products after your child turns two
It’s OK to introduce reduced-fat dairy foods after your child turns two, as long as she’s getting enough total energy from a wide variety of foods. See our illustrated dietary guidelines for toddlers for more information about toddlers’ daily food needs.

3. Offer foods with omega-3 when children stop breastfeeding or formula feeding
Omega-3 fat occurs naturally in breastmilk and is added to formula. Once children are no longer breastfeeding or formula-feeding, they need to get omega-3 from foods like tinned fish and vegetable oils.

4. Swap bad fats for good fats in your family’s diet
Foods with bad fats include fatty cuts of meat, full-fat dairy products, butter, deep-fried foods, commercially produced cakes and biscuits, snack foods and lollies.

Swap these foods for foods with good fats – lean meat, low-fat dairy, margarine made from polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats, nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables.

5. Aim to serve reduced-fat family meals and snacks
You can serve reduced-fat meals for your child and your whole family by:

  • choosing foods with good fat – for example, olive oil, tinned fish, nuts and avocados
  • including plenty of vegetables, as well as protein – for example, lean meat, tofu, eggs and beans
  • choosing reduced-fat milk, yoghurt or cheese (children under two years should always have full-fat dairy)
  • avoiding deep-fried foods, and ‘sometimes’ foods like ice-cream, cakes, biscuits, chocolate and lollies.
Eating reduced-fat family meals together with your children sets a good example for them. Modelling and talking about healthy choices is a great way to help your child develop healthy eating habits for life. If you’re concerned about your family’s diet, and about having too much bad fat in your diet, you can see a dietitian for advice.

6. Compare nutrition information panels (NIPs) on packaged food
All foods in Australia must have a food label – or nutrition information panel (NIP) – that lists the amount of nutrients in the food. NIPs must list saturated fats separately from total fats. When you’re shopping, check the NIPs of similar foods and choose those with lower levels of saturated fat.

7. Limit ‘sometimes’ foods
You and your child should avoid ‘sometimes’ foods. These include fast foods and junk food like hot chips, potato chips, dim sims, pies, burgers and pizza. They also include cakes, chocolate and lollies.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines say that both children and adults should limit how much ‘sometimes’ food they eat. It’s best to save these foods for special occasions.

For sweet treats, try our carrot and muesli mini muffins or our strawberry ice blocks.

8. Have fun with food
Trying a range of things can be entertaining and creates a healthy attitude to food. Your child’s diet should include a wide variety of fresh foods from the five food groups, including vegetables, fruit, grain foods, dairy and protein. Why not explore our recipes for some fresh ideas?


How to tell if your child is eating enough


There are lots of ways you can encourage your children to eat a diet that’s low on bad fat and high on healthy choices. For example, one dad in this video pretends green vegies are special treats – ‘Broccoli is so nice ... It’s only for the grown-ups!’

This video has lots of ideas from parents about getting children to eat more healthy food. Tips include eating the same things as your children, eating together, and involving children in meal preparation. The video also covers how much food children should eat and concerns about weight.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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