We know Omega-3 is great for kids (and us parents too!), but my kids won’t eat tuna every day, and neither will I. I imagine your little ones are the same way, and getting them the amount of omega-3 that they need through their diet can be extremely challenging. We’re all human, and eventually, most of us get tired of eating fish all the time, kid or not. But Omega-3 is in more foods than you might think!
Here are a few tricks to get Omega-3 rich food for your kids diet. Your kids will be getting their Omega-3s in their lunch or snack every day! I found these tips helpful not just for my kids but to supplement my own diet, so I can eat something for dinner that doesn't consist of a main course of fish either. I also don’t want to rely solely on omega-3 supplements, either. Even though the supplements are very effective and always improving, the most effective delivery system is still through food. I like to combine approaches. I was pleased to find that so many non-fish foods still include omega-3 fatty acids, so my family can get all the omega-3 we need without getting sick of fish.
Kids love cookies, and with chocolate chips, you can probably sneak a few things into them to make them healthier. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains antioxidants that help heart health as well, so it is a perfect combination with flaxseeds. The sweetness allows me to sneak some of those good old flax seeds into the mix without getting any complaints from my kids. They actually like the texture! This has become a really good daily addition to my Omega regimen, as well as my kids. I like taking one with me for a midday snack. It calms my sweet tooth, but it’s also a snack I don’t have to feel guilty about.
After I tried the cookies, I started looking for other recipes that allowed me to add flaxseed. Although we usually try to get omega-3 in during lunch, I’ll also add a little flaxseed to pancakes for breakfast some mornings or even add it into the cereal, and the kids seem to like it. There are a few ways to get this one into your diet, so feel free to experiment. Flaxseed is one of the easiest ways to get a good bit of omega-3 as well as fiber in your diet. It’s also a really high density food, so it fills me up for very few calories and lowers my appetite.
While I’m not currently putting my kids on calorie restricted diets, I want them to learn to eat mostly healthy foods. I want them to have healthy cravings. It’s not calorie-restricted, but it is calorie-conscious. Flaxseed helps me fill that space and not have to account for those calories, as well as helping fulfill my Omega goals. Cooking with flaxseed oil is another good option, and actually has more omega-3 fatty acids than the seeds themselves, because it’s more concentrated.
Walnuts add a unique and interesting flavor that my kids love, and it’s another easy way to give my kids Omega-3. I mix together walnuts, sliced green apples, green grapes, and dark chocolate chips for a healthy snack they love and a little boost of omega-3. I even use candied walnuts...in moderation. Combined with something like pretzels, they’re a low-calorie, sweet and salty alternative to the empty calories and fat that are in potato chips. My kids really love them, and so do I. Walnuts also pair well with fruit, though since fruit is already sweet, it’s best to stay away from the candied walnuts in this case. Just like flaxseed, I have made walnuts a staple of mine and my kids’ diets.
3) Grass-Fed Beef Jerky.
Grass in itself is very high in omega-3, but not particularly appetizing. However, when cows are grass fed, their beef is higher in omega-3 fatty acids. Beef jerky made from grass fed cows has become one of our favorite snacks in our household. Unfortunately, beef jerky is already pricey, and ordering beef jerky from exclusively grass fed cows from a specialty e-commerce store is, of course, even more expensive. I try to buy quite a bit of it at a time and sparse it out. I send it with my kids about twice a week, and I do the same for myself.
I also enjoy using the grass fed beef in cooking. With young kids, I don’t want to serve beef that’s too tough, especially not well done. But ground beef from grass fed cows can provide an excellent non-fish-meat for your omega enriched diet. Milk from grass fed cows is also proven to have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acid. I like to add the milk in with my cereal and flaxseed mix, or use it for cooking. It’s a really great way for me to incorporate omega-3 in every day without having to rely on fish. Even lactose-free milk is available in grass-fed for those with allergies. It’s true that these products are all going to cost more money and are the most expensive part of my personal food budget, but in my mind it’s worth it for the great source of DHA and ARA.
4) Omega Enriched Eggs.
Chickens who are fed a flax-based diet have both eggs and meat that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, I have not found any place in the United States that sells meat from flax-fed chickens. It seems like a relatively new venture even in Western Europe, where you can get it. However, it is pretty easy to get omega-3 enriched eggs.
Hard-boiled eggs always make for a great protein source in a to-go lunch. I pack my kids and myself a couple hard-boiled eggs each week for lunch. They’re quick, tasty, and healthy. I like them with a pinch of salt, but not so much as to endanger my blood pressure. Egg salad is also a popular choice in our household from time to time. Lunch and easily portable food aside, there are a ton of ways you can prepare these omega-3 enriched eggs for breakfast. I like to make omelettes with the omega-3 enriched milk and cheese. My son prefers scrambled eggs, and my daughter would rather have her eggs over-medium. Eggs don’t take long to prepare, so I usually have time to cook them each a couple eggs their own way. If we’re in a hurry, scrambled eggs with cheese goes over well for the whole house.
5) Chia Seed.
Chia seeds are pretty easy to add into almost any soft food, and go particularly easily into sweet snacks. You can add them into your flaxseed cookies for added texture — personally, it’s a few too many seeds for anyone in my house, but I know some bakers who swear by it. My favorite is a fruit puree with chia seeds. The fruit itself depends on the person. My husband likes green apples, while I like strawberry and pineapple, and my son loves a mixed berry smoothie. These fruits are all healthy in and of themselves, but to boost our omega-3 I just throw some chia seeds into the mix.
I like to use chia seeds when baking, as well. For a powerhouse of omega-3 fatty acids, I sometimes make bread or cakes with milk from grass-fed cows, omega-3 enriched eggs, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, and when appropriate, walnuts.
6) Omega-3 Supplements.
Although I don’t like to rely on them, on days when we’re just too busy to get all the omega-3 we need out of our diet, omega-3 supplements come in handy. Many of these supplements do contain that fishy aftertaste, but not all. Omega XL, for instance, is made from the green-lipped mussel in New Zealand. All of the nutrients and fatty acids are extracted without any of the seafood elements that might cause a fishy aftertaste or be a hazard for someone with seafood allergies. I started taking Omega XL to get all the vitamins and nutrients I needed while I was pregnant, and to help reduce joint pain as a runner, but now it’s my go-to any time we need omega-3 dietary supplements.
All of these are especially lunch friendly, but can be used outside of lunch as well, and I’m sure you can think of other ways to incorporate these ingredients. There is really no substitute for fish, and I’m lucky that myself and my family do all enjoy our fish, but these non-fish omega-3 rich alternatives keep us from getting tired of fish too often.