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Salmon Baby Food Provides Omega-3


If the idea of salmon baby food sounds unappealing, consider this: salmon and similar fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are critical for brain, eye, and nerve development. What if you could give your child this essential nutrient in a convenient baby food form?

Both breast milk and formula are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, but when children begin to eat solid foods, they typically do not get enough of the fatty acid because it is not found in many items. At least one diet expert would like to make sure young children get the omega-3s they need.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The brain is approximately 60 percent fat by dry weight, and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), the most plentiful omega-3 in the brain, is crucial to brain health and infant development. In fact, a newborn’s brain is 50 percent DHA, higher than seen in older children and adults. The fatty acid passes through the placenta to the fetus during pregnancy and to nursing infants through breast milk.

Given the importance of DHA in brain development, the World Health Organization recommended that DHA be added to infant formulas at levels similar to those found in mothers’ milk. Once children stop nursing, however, their source of omega-3 largely disappears as well. Food sources of the fatty acid, and especially DHA, is primarily fatty fish such as salmon, herring, and tuna, and lesser amounts in flaxseed and walnuts. These are not typical baby foods.

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Salmon Baby Food
That is why registered dietitian Susan Brewer, who is also a food science professor at the University of Illinois, believes it is time to introduce salmon baby food to young children. She also would like to see young children accept fish baby food for another reason. “Children’s food preferences are largely developed by the time they’re five,” she says, “so I urge parents to help their kids develop a taste for seafood early.”

Although some parents in the United States may be wrinkling up their noses, Brewer has the support of the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics for her idea. Fish-based baby food is not new to some parents, as it is available in Asia, the United Kingdom, and Italy.

Brewer has experimented and found that red salmon withstands the baby food production process better than the pink variety. She has tried adding different ingredients to the baby food, including pureed salmon eggs and bone meal, which enhance nutrition.

One advantage of salmon is that it is mild-tasting fish, and when it is added to toddler dinners, “they remind me of that salmon and cream cheese dip you have during the holidays,” says Brewer.

In a panel of parents who taste-tested the salmon baby food, Brewer found that 81 percent of the participants said they would offer the salmon baby food to their children, and this included parents who do not eat salmon themselves. Parents who are concerned about the amount of omega-3s their children need may find themselves shopping for salmon baby food in the near future.

University of Illinois