Parents committed to feeding their children a healthy diet now have some extra help, thanks to a new collaborative effort of chefs, pediatricians, and sustainable seafood experts, called KidSafe Seafood. Spearheaded by SeaWeb and the Roy Disney Family Foundation in response to the increasing interest in serving kids low-fat, nutrient-rich seafood to counter the surge in childhood obesity and diet-related illnesses, KidSafe Seafood clearly identifies some of the healthiest seafood choices for kids—and provides easy recipes and resources for busy parents.
A new report released by the National Academies Institute of Medicine validates that a wide variety of low-contaminant seafoods can play an important part of a healthy diet for children. It also acknowledges, however, that parents and other consumers need clearer information to sort through seafood risks and benefits. While seafood offers omega-3 fatty acids, lean protein, and a variety of vitamins and minerals, most fish contain at least trace amounts of toxic industrial pollutants, particularly mercury and PCBs, which can be harmful to children's growing bodies and rapidly developing brains.
"As a pediatrician, I find that many parents are confused about which fish are best for kids. They know fish is good for them, but they are unsure about which types are safe to serve," said Dr. James Sears, a pediatrician and author of parenting books who helped develop KidSafe Seafood. "Fish are one of the most nutritious foods for kids, but it is important to select the right ones."
The top ranking KidSafe Seafood choices are:
- Wild Alaskan salmon (pink, coho and chum)
- Tilapia (preferably from the United States or Central America)
- Shrimp (preferably U.S. farmed, Oregon pink, & northern "salad" shrimp)
- Farmed bay scallops
- Farmed blue mussels
Through a rigorous assessment process that analyzed the 65 most commonly eaten seafoods, the program has identified the very best seafood choices for children—those that are sufficiently low in mercury and PCBs as to be safe for children, age 3 and older, to eat at least once a week, based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's safety guidelines. All KidSafe Seafoods also meet high standards for nutrition and environmental friendliness to guide parents who are looking for the all-around best choices.
"If our oceans have abundant fish and pollution is reduced, we can ensure an excellent source of lean protein and essential fatty acids for our families now and for future generations," said Dr. Becky Goldburg, Senior Scientist with the non-profit group Environmental Defense. "This initiative underscores the connection between human health and the environment by highlighting seafood options that are caught in a sustainable way and low in contaminants – in other words, seafood that is both good for you and good for the ocean."
"Our task as parents can no longer be about just getting kids to clean their plates," adds Michel Nischan, chef and owner with Paul Newman of The Dressing Room, A Homegrown Restaurant in Westport, CT. A father of five, Nischan changed how his own family eats after one of his sons was diagnosed with diabetes. "We have to pick foods more carefully–for nutritional value, for environmental well-being, and to build a foundation for lifelong healthy eating."
For complete information about KidSafe Seafood, parents are encouraged to visit www.KidSafeSeafood.org. The website showcases kid-friendly recipes—including healthy homemade fish sticks—and easy cooking tips to help busy parents put seafood on the table every week.
To make its assessments, the program uses the best available state, federal, and academic studies, supplementing the limited data collected by the FDA, under the guidance of a panel of doctors and scientists. This week's Institute of Medicine report also acknowledged the need for better government monitoring and research of the levels and effects of seafood containments. KidSafe Seafood will continually reassess and update its list, as new data becomes available.
KidSafe Seafood is a program of SeaWeb, an independent communications-based nonprofit organization focused on advancing ocean conservation and ensuring a healthy seafood supply for the future. The Roy Disney Family Foundation provided funding. Environmental Defense provided extensive scientific research and technical assistance, and offers a useful consumption advisory chart on contaminants in seafood at http://www.oceansalive.org/eat.cfm.
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