How to Boost Your Toddler's Intake of Omega-3s

Veggies aren't the only food group parents should be pushing.

By:Camille Tokerud

Dealing with a toddler who is a picky eater? Don't worry, you're definitely not alone.

Getting a little one to taste (and actually like) veggies can seem like a near-constant battle, which is why many parents tend to focus on this food group. But as it turns out, broccoli isn’t the only thing parents should be pushing their toddlers to eat. In fact, a new study out of the University of Pennsylvania suggests that omega-3s, the fatty acid commonly found in fish, may be more important than previously thought.


The study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry in May 2015, builds on previous research that shows omega-3s may play a role in reducing antisocial and aggressive behavior in children. But those aren't the only benefits of omega-3s. 

“Omega-3’s are key to a baby’s brain and vision development and necessary for the ongoing health of the brain, not to mention heart as well as other health benefits," said Jill Castle, MS, RDN, CDN. Castle is also's Food Allergies expert and co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School. 

With mounting evidence about the importance of this fatty acid, parents need to know how to incorporate foods rich in omega-3s into their children's meals, particularly if you are dealing with a toddler who is a picky eater. Use these tips to help incorporate more omega-3’s into your toddler’s diet.


Know your omega 3 sources.

Fish my not be your two-year-old's top choice for dinner, but omega-3s are found in a variety of foods. These sources include olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, avocados, nuts, peanut butter and flaxseeds, as well as tofu and fish. Making these healthy fats a mainstay of your kitchen can improve the whole family's intake of omega-3s.


Snack smart.

Toddlers love their snacks, and you can help increase their intake of omega-3s between meal times with some smart snacking strategies. Chia seeds and flaxseeds can be easily added to the foods your child already eats. Try them in a smoothie or pudding, which will taste like a treat to toddler. Nut butters can be spread onto crackers for a more satisfying snack for little ones as well. 

Make the most of breakfast.

You can incorporate DHA-enriched eggs and milk into your toddler's breakfast (and other meals) when possible. As with snacking, chia seeds and flaxseeds can be added to common breakfast foods like cereal and oatmeal without your toddler knowing, which means no meal-time drama.

Aim for two servings of fish a week. 

Salmon, white tuna and cod are all healthy options for the whole family. Try grilled salmon for dinner and a tuna fish sandwich for lunch. Or, if you’re struggling to get little ones to eat fish, homemade fish sticks may also be the answer. 

Supplement when needed.

According to Castle, "An approach where parents use an arsenal of naturally omega-3 rich foods, fortified foods and a supplement can be beneficial, especially if fatty fish isn’t consumed regularly. For children with learning challenges or mood disorders, check with your doctor as there are higher levels prescribed for these conditions and a supplement will likely be needed to meet the dosage." 

In addition to the latest benefits, foods rich in omega-3s contribute to a toddler's well-rounded and healthy diet. Try a few of these strategies with your little one to see if you can up your toddler's intake of this important nutrient. 

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