Many of us are familiar with term 'Omega-3s', and know that they are good for us, but with fewer than 20 per cent of all Australians getting anywhere near the amount of these important fats each day, chances are that your kids are also not getting enough Omega-3 fat.
Omega-3 fat is found in their highest natural amounts in oily fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines. Smaller amounts are also found in shellfish, white fish, seaweed and there are also plant based Omega-3s found in chia, walnuts, flaxseed, linseed and pumpkin seeds, although these are not as powerful as the Omega-3s found in fish.
Throughout the course of our lives Omega-3 fats play an important role in reducing inflammation in the body, and as such a high intake is associated with a reduced risk of developing a number of lifestyle diseases including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and even some types of cancer.
In our early years, Omega-3 fats are involved in brain development and there is growing evidence to suggest they also have a role in cognitive function. So, even if you have a child who refuses to eat fish, here are some easy ways to boost their weekly intake of Omega-3 fats...
Maximise their salmon intake
Fresh and tinned salmon are especially rich in Omega-3s, with a single 100g serve giving an adult their entire daily recommended intake. This means that if your family enjoys salmon, it is a must on the weekly menu planner, at least once each week. Think family friendly recipes such as salmon burgers, patties or tacos; pasta bake, BBQ skewers or make your own pizza to incorporate salmon easily into your weekly meals. Smoked salmon can also be a great breakfast addition or sandwich topper for kids and adults alike.
Use their love for sushi
If your kids love sushi, you have an amazing opportunity to boost their weekly intake of good fats. Not only will sushi made with salmon or tuna instantly give them an Omega-3 dose but the seaweed too contains some Omega 3. Even better, get the kids involved in making their own sushi because they are much more likely to eat foods that they have been involved in preparing.
Make fish tasty
Kids are often sensitive to smells and textures which means that making your fish meals a little more child-friendly can be as simple as adding a quick crumb or batter to your fish. Omega-3 fats are relatively stable, which means that lightly frying them or serving with batter will not reduce the overall Omega-3 content, meaning that homemade fish and chips can be an easy, Omega-3-rich meal.
Make the most of nuts and seeds
While plant-based Omega-3 is slightly different to the Omega-3 found in oily fish, it can still be a great way to increase our daily intake of these fats overall. This means that if your kids will eat seedy bread or crackers, they are great options to increase their regular intake of good fats. Baking with chia or pepita seeds, utilising mixed nut and seed spreads for snacks or making your own bliss balls with nut spreads are all good ways to get more of these Omega-3-rich foods into children's diets.
Go for grainy carbs
Nutritionally, grain-based breads are superior to wholemeal, sourdough and high fibre white varieties, and if your family are happy to eat grainy breads, they are a great way to boost their intake of good fats, especially if pepitas, sunflower seeds and/or linseeds are included on the ingredient lists. Older bread can also be blended to make your own nutrient rich breadcrumbs, which can then be frozen and used as a crumb for your favourite fish or prawn recipe.
Use a supplement if you need
If all else fails, and you know that the chance of your kids eating more fish is slim to none, there is a wide range of child friendly Omega-3 supplements available in chemists that you can add into their diets. At the end of the day, some Omega-3 will be better than none and if you are happy to invest in supplements, it is a sure way to tick the box on some much needed, daily Omega-3s.
Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Me, co-host of The Nutrition Couch podcast and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.