Healthy eating ... Fish is a great source of omega-3, but there are other ways for your child to get his fill.

Healthy eating ... Fish is a great source of omega-3, but there are other ways for your child to get his fill.

Omega-3s have a big impact on a child’s health and the developing brain, but there’s a lot of confusion among parents about how much omega-3 their child should be having after the first few years of life, and if – and when – a supplement is necessary.

The government’s Nutritional Reference Values say kids need 40-70mg of omega-3s per day, depending on their age. But this recommendation is based on the average intake of this group; it’s been shown that children only consume small amounts of long-chain omega-3s, so this isn’t likely to be the actual optimum intake.

A healthy diet for your child includes long-chain omega-3s. Fish is the preferred source – oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are the richest sources of long-chain omega-3s.

Children who don’t like fish can get a boost through milk and yoghurt products that are fortified with omega-3s.

Natural sources also include flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts, and dark green leafy vegetables. 

If you decide to give your child omega-3 supplements, look for one containing the highest amount of DHA and EPA. It's not recommended to exceed the dose on the label.

While research suggests that children with behavioural and learning problems such as ADHD and dyslexia can benefit from increased levels of omega-3s, more research is needed to determine whether healthy children can benefit from supplements.

Good for adults, too

The Heart Foundation has found compelling evidence that eating fish, fish oils and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats has many benefits to cardiovascular health and can decrease the risk of heart disease.

Breastfeeding and pregnant women should consume 500mg of omega-3 every day through a combination of fish, fish oil supplements, and foods and drinks enriched with omega-3. They’re advised to follow the advice from Food Standards Australia and New Zealand to adhere to avoid the potential dangers of mercury poisoning.  

For recipes high in omega-3, visit the Heart Foundation website.

To read more on your toddler's health, download the free CHOICE kids and nutrition guide.