Monday, October 26, 2009

HEALTHY FATS FOR TEENS

When “Eat less than 30% of your calories from fat” guideline came into effect, it meant we should eat less fat. And it seems we have.

However, “eat less fat” does not mean “eat fat-free foods only.” The media and food industry took the lower fat recommendation to the extreme. Now consumers say low fat diets don’t work. Yet the experts have always said, “Eat less fat,” not “Eat no fat.” With the newest research work, we can now say, “When you eat fat, eat the healthy type.”

However, we still have the problem of obesity, for all ages. The reason is that calories have increased, although the percentage of fat has decreased. Now we are eating too many low-fat foods. As excess calories lead to excess weight, our obesity problem is increasing in children and adults.

The Teen Problem

Teens are of particular concern. They love fast foods and snacks, increasing their fat intake substantially from low nutrient foods. For some of them, nearly one third of their calorie intake comes from cookies, chips, hamburgers, tacos, muffins, Caesar salads, pizza, ice cream and milk shakes. In a recent survey, it was found that teen boys consume 33% of their calories from fat. This sounds good except that 34% of these calories came from foods that are very low in protein, vitamins and minerals. For teen girls, it’s 27% of calories from fat with 30% of fat coming from low nutrient foods.

How do we convince teens to eat healthier sandwiches, drink low fat milk and eat their fruits and vegetables? Especially when the reason for their eating habits are social and peer pressure. Encouraging healthy eating is an important problem we have to solve. Here are some suggestions:

Change to oils
Perhaps teens will enjoy their vegetables more if they were stir-fried; salads more if the dressing was homemade from flavorsome oils. Fat is necessary. It is needed to help with the absorption of carotenoids in vegetables and fruits, including the well-known beta-carotene, the pre-cursor of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin. It doesn’t help to eat salads and vegetables with no fat at all if you want full health benefits. Fat will help with the absorption of healthy phytochemicals and add taste. Adding taste of course results in more vegetables eaten. Throw in some olives, nuts and avocado (with heart healthy mono-unsaturated fats) and you have a crunchier and tastier salad.

Add fish to meals
Teens don’t order fish first. It doesn’t enter their mind. Yet they don’t mind canned tuna. As I like people to eat fish three times a week, tuna sandwiches or tuna salads can be tasty meals for children. In fish, the healthy fats are omega-3 fatty acids, which benefit the heart. Yum, I’ve just made myself a sardine sandwich – tasty! High fat fish are trout, herring, mackerel, salmon and sardines. Lower fat fish types include haddock, shrimp and tuna, canned in water. As teens need energy, let them eat the high-fat types. Any kind is good.

Cereals for breakfast
Cereals made from flax seed will also be high in omega-3 fatty acids. Children who eat breakfast are smarter and have more energy. Encourage a little fat in the first meal of the day.

For Parents

Avoid:
- Baked goods
- High fat cuts of meats
- High fat dairy products
- Tropical oils – palm and coconut

Get your fats from:
- Canola oil for stir-frying vegetables;
olive oil for salads; peanut, sesame and other tasty oils
- Avocados, humus, olives
- Margarine
- Nuts

Enjoy your fats, but the right fats!



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