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Published on August 27, 2019

Get your kids hooked on fish

Kids Seafood Health

Most kids love going to the beach, but eating seafood? That’s another thing.

Seafood is part of a well-balanced diet, but a recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that American children’s consumption of seafood has declined every year since 2007.

Parents should make sure their children get one or two servings of seafood each week, said Tracy Warren, RDN, a clinical dietitian in Cape Cod Hospital’s Nutrition Therapy department.

“I recommend introducing fish to your children,” she said. “It's a good source of protein and it has omega-3 fatty acid.”

The AAP has recommended serving sizes based on a child’s age:

  • 1 ounce for children age 2-3
  • 2 ounces for children age 4-7
  • 3 ounces for children age 8-10
  • 4 ounces for children age 11 and over

Not all seafood options are equal when it comes to nutritional value, said Warren. Some kids prefer fish sticks. While they may be easy to prepare, she said they’re not the best choice.

“They are generally fried and highly processed, so you’re not really getting much protein and nutrients out of a fish stick,” she said.

Canned tuna is a convenient, healthy option that many kids enjoy, she said, and it’s flexible in the ways it can be served, including tuna salad or chunks in a garden salad.

“Fish, Shellfish, and Children’s Health: An Assessment of Benefits, Risks, and Sustainability,” the AAP’s report in the June issue of Pediatrics, discusses the health advantages of eating fish.

“In addition to being protein dense with no saturated fat or sugar, many types of fish are high in vitamin D and calcium, and some are a rich source of long chain omega-3 fatty acids used by the body to build nerve cells in the brain and eyes,” said the AAP. The AAP also said there is some evidence that children who eat fish early in life may be at less risk for asthma.

Warren speculated that the reason some parents are serving less seafood might be a concern about mercury. Methylmercury can build up in fish that eat other fish, such as swordfish and tuna. The AAP warns that eating too much of these fish could have harmful effects on a child's developing nervous system.

Good alternatives, according to the AAP, include salmon, trout and herring, which are low in mercury and high in brain-boosting DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid). But there are many other “best choices”:

  • Shrimp
  • Cod
  • Catfish
  • Crab
  • Scallops
  • Pollock
  • Tilapia
  • Whitefish
  • Perch
  • Flounder
  • Sole
  • Sardine
  • Anchovy
  • Crawfish
  • Clams
  • Oyster
  • Lobster

It all comes down to what options your children enjoy most, but having some seafood each week may be beneficial for your child’s health, Warren said.