Toddler Developmental Delays Caused by Lack of Toddler Dietary Fats

toddler dietary fats and developmental delays

Toddler developmental delays are often not diagnosed early enough because parents don’t know what to look for. In some cases toddler developmental delays can be avoided or improved when dietary fat intake is increased.  Lack of toddler dietary fats causes a whole host of issues, especially toddler developmental delays. Many parents of toddlers worry that their child isn’t developing right. If you are concerned about toddler developmental delays supply a healthy high fat diet. Studies show that nutrient deficiencies cause learning disabilities. Some toddler developmental delays are actually due to a lack of toddler dietary fats. Switching from a low fat diet to a high fat diet helps a toddler’s brain development.

What are the signs of toddler developmental delays? Delays can be physical or mental or both. Obvious toddler developmental delays involve movement. Your baby should sit up by 12 months. He should walk before 18 months. He should be running by 2. Your 12 month old should grab objects and hold them. Your 2 year old should be able to throw a ball.

Worried about your toddler's development? Learn the importance of having enough dietary fat in your child's daily diet to avoid speech delays and delays in developmental milestones. Inadequate fat intake can inhibit brain development.

Delayed speech are also toddler developmental delays. They are apparent at age 1. Does your one year old know his or her own name? Does he or she make sounds and attempt to say words? If not your child may have toddler developmental delays in speech. It is common for babies and toddlers to mispronounce words. If you think your baby or toddler has a speech delay, get a screening. A speech and language pathologist can diagnose toddler developmental delays in language.

Most Americans are Mistaken about Toddler Dietary Fats

Americans like to trim dietary fat off of a steak or pour all the grease drippings out of the frying pan. In third world countries mothers will use that dietary fat. We live in the same world, but Americans and our third world neighbors have different views on dietary fat. Americans loath it. But in poor countries mothers wouldn’t think of wasting the fat.

Nutritionists Anderson and Zlotkin remind us in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that “In developing countries such wastage is much less of a luxury”.

Toddler developmental delays can be due to a lack of toddler dietary fats. Fat is needed to nourish our neurological system and assist brain function.Learn more about why fat is important for toddler brain development.
Toddler developmental delays may be due to a low fat diet.

And now that childhood obesity is on the rise in America, we are getting more and more paranoid about our toddler dietary fats and cholesterol levels. But should we skip the fat? Are toddler developmental delays due to a lack of dietary fat?

The media reminds Americans daily that we are fat and our children are fat.  The diagnosis for adult-onset diabetes has become so prevalent among children that the medical community has since changed the term to Type 2 Diabetes. Bombarded by this campaign against fat, many parents think toddler dietary fats are bad.

Have you begun to limit your toddler’s fat intake? Are you seeing toddler developmental delays? If you see signs of a developmental delay as early as 1 to 2 years of age and your baby has not been eating healthy saturated fats, try to encourage it. There are many experts that believe dietary fat is not what makes people fat, after all. It’s the grains.

Why Low Dietary Fats Cause Toddler Developmental Delays

Fat is an essential part of the human diet. What happens if our toddlers don’t get enough fat?

Studies have shown that a low fat diet will cause toddler toddler developmental delays. It is between birth and three years that infants and toddlers have the highest potential for growth and development. Those 4 years are the most critical. Don’t worry about giving high fat foods to your toddler. For your baby healthy fats equal brain food. Toddler dietary fats are used to wire and rewire the neurological systems.

Toddler Dietary Fats: Your 2-5 year old’s diet should include 35-40% of dietary fats daily

Based on a 1300 calorie diet, that means your toddler probably needs 45-50g fat each day. Drs. Allen and Graham developed a Child Nutrition Program in Kenya. Their program showed that increasing toddler dietary fats with beef and milk corrects developmental delays. Children in Kenya were eating a high grain diet that was not properly balanced. As a result the children were deficient of vital nutrients (B12, Iron, and Zinc).

According to a summary statement of the GL-CRSP,

“The nutritional risks associated with avoidance of animal source foods, and especially meat, are not adequately appreciated in the U.S. or the world in general. For example, the practice of restricting the meat intake of children in the United States has become more common because some parents believe that “red meat” has adverse effects on health. In a recent study at UC Davis, for example, wealthier parents fed far less red meat to their children than did those in lower socioeconomic groups; 91% of lower income children and 100% of higher income children failed to meet the minimum number of meat servings“.

Toddler dietary fats are crucial to avoid toddler developmental delays. Dietary fat supplies the essential fatty acids required for absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat is used in the body to develop proper brain function. Dietary fat also aids a toddler’s developing immune systems.

Michael Pollen, In Defense of Food:
In our Western diet, we’ve replaced real food with nutrients. Now most of what we’re eating today is no longer the product of nature but of food science.  It seems like the more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we become. An Eater’s Manifesto-“The human brain is about 60% fat; every neuron is sheathed in a protective layer of the stuff. Fats make up the structure of our cell walls, the ratios between various kinds influencing the permeability of the cells to everything from glucose and hormones to microbes and toxins. Without adequate amounts of fat in the diet, fat-soluble vitamins like A and E can’t pass through the intestinal walls”.

Toddler Dietary Fats are Lacking in Typical American Diet

Most toddlers are able to eat home-prepared meals by their first birthdays. As they grow into preschoolers, we begin to feed them small amounts of table foods. Toddlers often prefer to eat peas, carrots, cereals, and other simple carbohydrate snacks like blueberries, bananas, and applesauce. These foods are not nutrient-dense fatty foods, but they taste good. When the toddler is weaned from the breast or bottle, they may lack adequate animal source foods. A lack of toddler dietary fats causes nutritional deficiencies, and this causes toddler developmental delays.

Lean meats may further limit our toddler’s fat intake. A beef short loin trimmed to 0″ of fat contains 3.4g fat, while the same short loin with 1/2″ fat has 9.4g.

Rivera and Lutter remind us in the Journal of Nutrition that “Little attention has been paid to (caregivers) potentially limiting amounts of amino acids, which may occur when virtually all the protein is provided by cereals. Beyond their contribution of a good and highly bio-available source of iron and zinc, foods from animal sources also increase the proportion of fat in the diet and provide EFA and high quality protein. An association of milk consumption with growth has also been documented.”

Symptoms of a Low Fat Diet in Toddlers

For toddlers, the most common side-effect of a low fat diet is diarrhea. If your toddler or preschool child suffers from chronic loose stools, then lack of fat may be the reason. In some cases diarrhea in toddlers and children can also be the result of a rare autoimmune disorder called celiac disease. There are also other reasons for diarrhea in children and toddlers.

Low-fat dieting affects more than toddler body weight. Fat provides both energy density and adequate amounts of essential fatty acids. Dietary fat acts as a carrier for necessary fat-soluble vitamins. It’s needed to help proper toddler growth and development. Fatty acids are each involved in specific metabolic functions.

According to Giovannini, Agostoni, and Salari:  “Short-chain fatty acids are local growth factors in the colon; medium- and long-chain saturated fatty acids are good energy sources; long-chain polyunsaturated fatty adds participate in metabolic regulation; and very-long-chain fatty acids are structural components in membranes”.

How Much Dietary Fat Should My Toddler Get?

Eisenberg, Murkoff and Hathaway believe,

“If your toddler is under two years old, most of the dairy products he or she consumes should be full-fat; toddlers older than two should be switched to skim milk and mostly low fat (not non-fat) dairy products. But remember that a very low-fat diet is not appropriate for any child”.

So how much fat is in your toddler’s sippy cup of milk? If it is whole milk, there are approximately 6.5g of fat; if it is 2% there are 4.4g, but if you are giving your toddler skim milk there is only 0.4 g of fat. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, studies have not yet proven that infant and toddler diets too high in fat lead to future metabolic health problems.

A Case Study: Toddler Developmental Delays Due to Lack Dietary Fat

A side effect of  a long-term low animal fat diet is a vitamin B12 deficiency. The Center for Disease Control outlined two extreme cases of B12 deficiency. In the report they describe the condition of two young toddlers with failure to thrive were on vegan diets:

A 9 month old baby boy was breastfed by a vegan mother. The health-care provider and his parents were concerned about the toddler’s developmental delays and physical growth. They supplemented his diet with fruit and dry cereals to improve growth. He was taking a multigrain formula because he could not tolerate cow’s milk based formula or soy-based formula. He exhibited poor motor and speech development at age 11 months, and was evaluated by a developmental pediatrician. The pediatrician ordered genetic and metabolic studies and prescribed speech, occupational, and physical therapies.

After diagnosis of a B12 deficiency, the pediatrician began nutrient therapy. B12 is a nutrient that is found in meats. The boy continued to have delays in speech, but he experienced catch-up development in motor skills. Six months after treatment had begun, the toddler still had slight speech and fine motor skill delays but had age-appropriate gross motor skills.

“The amount of vitamin B12 actually needed by the body is very small, probably only about 2 micrograms or 2 millionth of a gram/day. Unfortunately, vitamin B12 is not absorbed very well so much larger amounts need to be supplied through the diet or supplementation. The richest dietary sources of vitamin B12 are liver, especially lamb’s liver, and kidneys. Eggs, cheese and some species of fish also supply small amounts, but vegetables and fruits are very poor sources” [].

Toddler Developmental Delays: If you are Worried about Your Child

Parents concerned about toddler developmental delays should look at their baby’s diet. Is your toddler on a vegan diet? Is your toddler eating gluten free? Are you feeding your toddler a high carb diet? Anderson and Zlotkin have an easy questionnaire for parents who plan to change their baby’s diet:

  1. Does modification of diets in childhood prevent chronic disease? If so, which disease or diseases?
  2. Will dietary change affect growth and development?
  3. Can children meet energy requirements on energy-dilute diets? If so, at what age?
  4. Will nutrient intakes be compromised?
  5. Is there a monitoring system in place to evaluate dietary change?”.

Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway say to feed 1-3 year olds between five to eight servings of high-fat foods every day. Each serving of food should have about 7 grams of fat to avoid toddler developmental delays.

In their book, What to Expect the Toddler Years they tell us to “Try to vary the sources of fat in your toddler’s diet. Though some of it should come from animal sources (whole milk, cheese, meat), especially in the second year, more of it should come from vegetable oils (especially in the third year and beyond)”.

What’s a Dietary Fat? Find out Dietary Fat Types

Below is a guideline offered by the Harvard School of Public Health. As with carbs and proteins, not all dietary fats are equal. You want to feed your toddler healthy dietary fats that promote brain and heart health. Trans fats have been proven to be very unhealthy for toddlers. A high fat diet for toddlers should not include trans fats.

Toddler Developmental Delays: A Toddler Dietary Fats Graph

Type of Fat Main Source State at Room Temp Effect on Cholesterol

POLYUNSATURATED FATS THAT CAN BE INCLUDED *Beware of Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs)

Corn, soybean, safflower, flaxseed oils; fish oil


Lowers LDL; raises HDL


Whole milk, Butter, Cheese, Ice cream; Red meat; Chocolate; Coconuts, Coconut milk, Coconut oil


Raises both LDL and HDL


Margarine; Vegetable shortening; Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil; Deep-fried chips; Fast food;Commercial baked goods

Solid or

Raises LDL

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Toddler Dietary Fats Improve Toddler Developmental Delays

It is important for parents to watch not only what they serve, but also what their toddler actually eats. If you have a toddler with developmental delays and chronic diarrhea, consider adding good healthy saturated fats to the diet. It is common for toddlers to develop picky eating habits.

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