Lesson Introduction & Overview
Fat is an important nutrient, but you only need small amounts each day. It gives you energy and helps your body grow. Here are some of the important jobs fats do:
• Give you energy: During exercise your body uses carbohydrates for fuel for about 20 minutes. After that your body depends on fat to keep going.
• Keeps your skin and hair healthy.
• Helps you absorb vitamins A, D, E and K.
• Fills your fat cells and helps keep you warm.
• Helps your brain grow and adapt as you learn new information and have new experiences.
• Helps regulate blood sugar so your energy level stays even instead of bouncing all over the place.
• Keeps you feeling satisfied so you don’t overeat.
Not all fats are “good” fats:
Trans fats are made when vegetable oils are processed (or hydrogenated) into shortening and stick margarine. Sources of trans fats include snack foods, baked goods and fried foods made with “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “vegetable shortening.”
Try to limit foods made with these ingredients. Trans fats can raise your cholesterol.
Saturated fats are most often found in foods that are solid at room temperature, like butter, cheese, palm and coconut oil and red meats.
Limit the amount of saturated fat and trans fat you have each day. This will help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Unsaturated fats, the healthy types of fats, come from both animal and plant products. There are two types:
- monounsaturated fats come from seeds or nuts such as avocado, olive, peanut and canola oils. Monounsaturated fat, in the right amounts, may reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol). They are liquid at room temperature.
- polyunsaturated fats come from vegetables, seeds or nuts such as corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed and sesame seed oils. Polyunsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol if you use them in place of saturated fats.
This lesson introduces young people to the importance of including fats in their diets and choosing the most healthful types.
Lead a conversation based on the following questions:
- What kinds of things have you heard (from your family, friends, media, health care providers, school, etc.) about fats in food?
- Is the information you’re getting about fats from food labels easy to understand? Why or why not?
- Is the information you’re getting about fats in food helpful to you when you’re choosing what to eat?
- What questions do you have about fats in food?
Introduce the types of fats: Trans fats, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (use the information above).
Prepare a sampling of snack options with healthy fats, such as: walnuts or other nuts, olives, bread dipped in olive oil, dark chocolate, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, vegetables dipped in hummus made with healthy fats (be sure to check the label).
Invite young people to complete the healthy fats word find while enjoying tasting the different foods.
Lead a reflection discussion:
- Which foods did you like best?
- Were there any you didn’t like?
- Had you eaten any of these foods before?
- What do you usually eat for snacks?
- Are there any of these foods you’d like to eat more often?
Close by letting young people know that in addition to healthy fats, their bodies need protein and carbohydrates (such as vegetables and fruits) as well. It’s recommended that fats make up about 25 to 30 percent of a person’s daily calorie intake. Consider following this lesson with the Health Powered Kids lesson on learning to read nutrition labels.
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English, Spanish, Somali and Hmong so that families can learn about healthy fats at home.