Hey folks, Board-Certified Health Coach Chloe Maleski is here to answer your questions about seed oils. Whether you’re wondering whether they’re really that bad, trying to avoid them when eating out, or scouting healthier treats for kids, you’ll learn some helpful tips and strategies. Got a question you’d like to ask our health coaches? Leave it below in the comments or over in the Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook group.
“Are seed oils really that bad? Are they okay in moderation? They’re in all the foods my kid likes to eat! Crackers, granola bars, muffins… Not to mention when eating out!”
Sigh… I know. Highly refined seed oils are cheap and everywhere. Yes, we find them in the usual suspects: fast food, highly processed food, and most conventional food that comes packaged and ready to eat. They also hide out where less expected, including in foods marketed as “healthy” and at restaurants and hot bars that might otherwise pass as Primal.
Unfortunately, the answer to your first question is Yes. Highly refined seed and vegetable oils are That. Bad. Even in moderation, they can be detrimental to health.
While some folks are more sensitive to highly refined seed oils than others, they can cause inflammation in pretty much everyone. Chronic, systemic inflammation is a scourge of modern times. It’s implicated in countless minor ailments as well as more serious ones such as heart disease and cancer. It also weakens our general immune system response, since the body is too preoccupied with active, ongoing inflammation to deal properly with exposure to bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to (or can) avoid inflammatory oils entirely—particularly when eating out. Depending on priorities and life circumstances, this may be a great place to lean into the 80/20 principle: “In the context of full and earnest commitment, an overall 80 percent conformity with the 10 Primal Blueprint rules will yield a solidly healthy result.”
That’s not a green light for choosing foods containing seed oils 20 percent of the time. Highly processed, inflammatory oils are never healthy, even in moderation. But if you aim to avoid them completely and a little slips by on occasion, overall outcomes will still land on the side of healthy. In other words: do your best, but don’t stress about perfection.
Which oils are bad for you anyway?
The fact that you’re asking these questions means you’re already on track! Once you know what to look for and find trusty staples, avoiding highly refined, inflammatory oils gets way easier.
As a starting place, let’s consider your kid’s favorites. Since crackers, granola bars, and muffins are usually snacks and treats rather than a primary food source, it’s best not to go overboard in any case (whether or not they contain unhealthy oils).
That said, sometimes a kid (or adult!) just wants a muffin. In those instances, you’re wise to check the ingredients when purchasing snacks and treats of any sort. Canola oil is an especially prevalent one to watch out for. Most canola oil is chemically extracted using the harsh petroleum-derived solvent hexane before undergoing other steps such as bleaching and deodorizing—all of which require heat and heat-generated degeneration. No need to remember these details! Just know that canola oil is neither a whole nor healthy food.
Other common culprits include soybean oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, and safflower oil. Like canola, these generally undergo extensive industrial processing and often come from genetically modified, heavily pesticide-treated crops.
Not all oils are unhealthy, however! What’s more, a certain amount of processing is involved in producing oil of any sort. The key thing is to steer clear of those from pesticide-laden crops requiring processing on a large scale in industrial plants. You can find a handy comparison of healthy and unhealthy oils here, and can download the Free Guide to Fats and Oils here.
Does this mean no store-bought treats? Not necessarily! More and more Paleo and Primal brands are making helpful changes, including ditching inflammatory seed oils and opting for better-for-you alternatives such as avocado oil and coconut oil. Read your labels closely, stick with brands you trust, and you’ll find healthier options for satisfying that urge for packaged, ready-to-eat snacks and condiments.
If home cooking’s in the cards, you and your kiddo have even more healthy (or healthier) options! Our extensive recipe archive of Primal treats and Primal snacks is an excellent starting place. Also check out NomNom Paleo, where Paleo mom Michelle Tam shares an abundance of kid-friendly meal and meal prep inspiration.
If going the above route, you might even involve your kid in the process—gently planting the seed that “healthy food is tasty and cooking is fun.” Food preferences start early and can be much harder to shift later on. Whatever small steps you can take to make healthy swaps for you and your kid now, the less likely they’ll be hooked on unhelpful stuff later.
Of course, something that rarely works is pressuring kids into healthy choices! One of the best things you can do is model a Primal way of eating and living without making it too big of a deal. If you’re enjoying healthy, delicious food without extra fuss or stress, that will go far in nurturing healthy habits in kiddos.
As a Primal Health Coach, this is so cool to see! Just by shifting your own eating patterns and relationship with food, you’ll have a huge impact on any little ones watching.
And when eating out?
Same goes for restaurants and hot bars: Ask about the ingredients, make polite requests, choose the best available options, and remember that 80/20 rule.
Restaurants are often open to steaming or grilling vegetables and serving any sauces or dressings on the side. If you find a restaurant willing to cook your food in butter or olive oil, all the better!
As more people make such requests and bring attention to unhealthy seed and vegetable oils, more restaurants are taking notice and offering alternatives. So long as you’re respectful and recognize that not all establishments are able or willing to make substitutions, asking never hurts and may help to create change.
If your kids are watching, all the better! This is a great opportunity for modeling kind, respectful inquiry and self-advocacy while starting conversations about why food choice matters.
I realize these are big topics for little ones… and for hardworking parents who have lots on their plates! By even asking these sorts of questions and being on the watch for unhealthy seed oils, you’re already doing great.
If you want backup, consider working with a health coach! It’s more accessible than you might think, and we can help map out healthier solutions for you and your family. Visit myprimalcoach.com to check it out and get started!
Have any Primal, kid-friendly treats to share? Or tips for avoiding seed oils when eating out? Drop them or other questions for me in the comments!