For most of us, August is back-to-school time. It also means getting back into the normal rhythms and routines of the school year. While some things may still be a little different this year, one thing that has remained constant for families is wanting to support their kiddo’s learning by feeding them the right foods.
While there are many factors that play into a child’s ability to focus and succeed in school, diet is one factor that parents can control (at least they can control what is offered – can’t force a kid to kid to eat anything!). Some of the best foods you can feed your kids during the school year are fish and shellfish.
Seafood and Kid’s Health Benefits
Fish and shellfish make great kid-friendly dinners that are ready in a snap. From homemade cod fish sticks to grilled pineapple shrimp skewers, the possibilities are endless and they fuel the entire family with high-quality protein in a convenient way.
Beyond the ease of serving your family seafood, the benefits of fish and shellfish for kids are significant. Fish and shellfish supply important nutrients that kids need to grow and thrive, including:
- Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for strong bones, brain development, and a healthy immune system;
- Protein to support growth, development, and satiety at a meal;
- Vitamins B-6, B-12 and D to supply kids with energy support and possibly help minimize chronic disease risk later in life;
Unfortunately, kids are only getting about 40% of the brain-boosting omega-3s DHA and EPA recommended by the National Academy of Medicine. It is ultimately up to parents to fill this gap.
Why Do Kids Need Seafood?
Eating fish in childhood can literally help kids forming brains. Yes, simply serving your kiddo a piece of grilled salmon can set her up for success in the classroom. Data suggests that seafood consumption in childhood may result in the following:
- BIGGER BRAINS: Eating fish may make kids’ brains bigger by supplying DHA omega-3 fatty acids (1). Having a bigger brain is a good thing--data suggests that a bigger brain means better cognitive performance;
- SCHOOL PERFORMANCE: According to one study, kids who eat fish at least once per week may do better in school (2);
- IQ: Research shows that kids who eat fish at least once a week sleep better and have an IQ about 4.8 points higher than those who seldom or never eat fish (3);
- HEALTHY EYES: Along with supporting healthy eye development, seafood’s omega-3s support children’s ability to detect light (4);
- STRONG BONES: Certain fish are a great source of Vitamin D, a nutrient that plays a role in bone health by helping the body absorb calcium (5);
- GROWTH SUPPORT: Seafood is an excellent source of lean protein, a nutrient that is essential for a child’s body development during times of rapid growth;
- LESS STRESS: Children who consume more seafood have less anxiety and better focus. Omega-3s have been shown to help reduce behavior problems and aggression in children (6);
How To Include Seafood Into a Child’s Diet
OK, let’s be real. Seafood isn’t always on the “top 5” list of foods that kids love. Most kids would prefer to have a bowl of mac and cheese and chicken nuggets instead of a grilled piece of tuna any day of the week. But there are some ways that families can include seafood into children’s diets without any complaining at the dinner table.
Here are some fun ideas to get kids excited about eating their seafood:
- Bring kids into the kitchen and have them help you cook. Making homemade cod fish sticks is a simple dish that can be prepared with a mini sous chef. Get your kiddo to help bread the fish (shake, shake shake in the bag!) and involve them in selecting seasonings. Oftentimes, when kids play a role in fixing a dish, they will be more apt to eating it;
- Include dips. Kids love dipping their food, and seafood is a perfect palate. Cook up some wild shrimp and offer your kiddo some fun dip options. From BBQ to peanut, the options are endless;
- Use seafood in favorite recipes. Fish and shellfish don’t have to be served in a five-star style and accompanied with the finest wine. Make salmon tacos instead of beef or scallop mac and cheese instead of plain for a pleasing meal that appeals to both grown-up and kid’s taste buds alike;
Serving your kids seafood is one of the best things you can do to support their health and academic success. When selecting your seafood, make sure you are selecting options that come from the best fisheries to deliver the highest quality sustainable and wild-caught seafood. Greensbury Market makes seafood shopping simple by delivering high-quality products right to your door. They source wild caught finfish and shellfish from fisheries in Maine and the Florida Keys, as well as Alaskan sockeye salmon. The fisheries are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council or marked sustainable by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program.
Be sure to stock your freezer with seafood from Greensbury Market to make sure you are well-supplied with brain-boosting food for the school year. Your kiddos will certainly thank you.
Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian based in Charleston, South Carolina. She earned a bachelor's degree and master's degree in human nutrition and is passionate about helping people achieve their nutrition goals. She currently acts as a consultant, food blogger, and freelance writer for outlets including Eating Well and POPSUGAR. When Lauren isn't working, she is enjoying the outdoor life with her daughter, husband, and rescue-pup.