Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential component of any healthy diet, but these nutrients are especially important for growing children.
Why omega 3 is important for kids
Chances are, you’ve heard of omega-3s. But you may be wondering what they are and why your kiddo needs them. Simply put, omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that the body can’t produce on its own. Therefore, they must come from your—or, in this case, your child’s—diet.
Omega-3s help the body build new cells and absorb vital nutrients. They also play an important role in eye function and boast bigtime benefits for the brain. They may even help support behavioral and psychological health. But sadly, most of us (children included) don’t get enough of these healthy fats.
There are three types of omega-3 fats:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
ALA is mainly derived from plant sources, such as chia seeds, flaxseed and walnuts, whereas DHA and EPA are primarily found in fish, beef and chicken.
How much omega 3 daily do kids need?
According to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the current Recommended Adequate Intakes of omega-3s for children are as follows:
- 0 to 12 months: 0.5 grams per day
- 1 to 3 years: 0.7 grams per day
- 4 to 8 years: 0.9 grams per day
- 9 to 13 years (girls/boys): 1/1.2 grams per day
- 14 to 18 years (girls/boys): 1.1/1.6 grams per day
Getting kids to consume omega-3s
Getting your child to consume the Recommended Adequate Intakes of omega-3s may be easier said than done, especially if he or she is a picky eater. Experts recommend trying to serve kids foods rich in omega-3 fats before turning to supplements. Such foods may include:
- Fish (e.g., fresh tuna, mackerel, halibut, herring, salmon, sardines, trout)
- Seeds (e.g. chia seeds, flaxseeds)
- Shellfish (e.g., crabs, mussels, shrimp, oysters)
Following are some ways to help ensure your child gets enough omega-3 fats—even if he or she has a particularly discerning palate:*
Serve fish in child-friendly ways. For example, bake salmon in honey barbeque or teriyaki sauce. Or, serve it in cake or nugget form.
Hide flaxseeds in favorite dishes. Mix ground flaxseeds into peanut butter for a more healthful PB&J, or add them to casseroles, pudding, soups, muffins—even breadcrumbs for chicken nuggets!
Serve DHA-fortified milk. Many brands now offer milk that has been fortified with DHA. This omega-3 fatty acid is most abundant in the brain and essential for early development.
Add fish oil to smoothies and yogurt. Your son or daughter will love the natural strawberry watermelon flavor of Wiley's Finest Wild Alaskan Fish Oil Beginner's DHA For Kids. It even contains multivitamins! Barlean's Omega-3 Lemon Creme Fish Oil is another great choice for children ages four and older.
Give them fish oil by the “shot” or spoonful. Suitable for children over the age of four, Coromega Max High Concentrate Omega-3 Citrus Burst Fish Oil Squeeze Shots promises a great taste and “no fish burps.” Infants as young as six months can enjoy a teaspoon of Childlife Natural Strawberry Cod Liver Oil
Try chewable softgels. Kids should offer very little resistance against chewable omega-3 vitamins. Especially when they taste as good as Renew Life Omega Smart Kids DHA Fruit Punch Chewable Softgels do! Recommended for children age three and older.
Give them omega-3 gummies. What child can resist gummies? Vitacost KidHealth Omega-3 Gummies for Kids “includes both EPA and DHA in fun, gummy shapes.” All-natural colors and flavors!
*Please consult your child’s health care provider prior to administering nutritional supplements.
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.