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Salmon Baby Food Gives a Nutritional Boost to Infants and Toddlers

Just as adults receive nutritional benefits from a diet rich in seafood, babies and toddlers also need the omega-3 fatty acids for brain, nerve and eye development. Researchers at the University of Illinois and the Alaska’s Agricultural Research Service have developed baby food made from salmon to incorporate fish into children’s diets. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Just as adults receive nutritional benefits from a diet rich in seafood, babies and toddlers also need the omega-3 fatty acids for brain, nerve and eye development. Researchers at the University of Illinois and the Alaska’s Agricultural Research Service have developed baby food made from salmon to incorporate fish into children’s diets. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

As adults, we have heard for years about the value of adding fish to our diets. But have you ever stopped to consider the health benefits a diet rich in seafood can offer your children?

Babies need the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish for brain, nerve and eye development. Most children don’t get enough, especially when they switch from breast milk or formula to solid food. Additionally, children’s food preferences largely develop by age five, so I urge parents to help their kids develop a taste for seafood early.

To help toddlers get the recommended twice-weekly servings of fish that experts recommend, I worked to develop a salmon baby food. As unappetizing as that sounds, the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are behind the idea, and similar foods have successfully been marketed in the United Kingdom and Italy.

Working with Peter Bechtel of Alaska’s Agricultural Research Service, we created a product using Alaskan wild-caught salmon. We discovered that when salmon swim upstream to spawn, their flesh gets very soft, which is perfect for baby food. I tested both pink and red salmon and found that red salmon survives the baby food production process better.

To boost nutritional value, we added bone meal, which provides calcium for bone development, and pureed salmon roe (eggs), which provides high quality proteins and contains significant quantities of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.

The results have been very encouraging and taste testers agree! Salmon is very mild, and the toddler dinners don’t taste or smell fishy. In a sensory panel, parents found little taste difference between formulations that contained roe or bone meal and those that didn’t. Eighty-one percent of the parent panelists–even those who don’t eat salmon themselves–said they would offer it to their children after taste testing the product.

Our goal is to deliver maximum nutrition in an entrée that’s aesthetically pleasing, and these studies show that we can do just that!

8 Responses to “Salmon Baby Food Gives a Nutritional Boost to Infants and Toddlers”

  1. Jim Eisinger says:

    Sounds like a great idea. The only concern I have is how does this added pressure on the salmon population, which I have read is on the decline, going to be offset.

    Thanks,
    Jim

  2. JC says:

    Although some wild stocks of salmon are in trouble, there are several healthy fisheries for wild salmon in Alaska and Canada.

    In addition to wild salmon, several countries including Canada, Norway, Scotland, Iceland and Chile offer abundant supplies of farm raised salmon.

  3. Tiffany says:

    I am curious about mercury levels. When I was pregnant the doctors told me not to eat fish at all because it could be damaging to children. Is it now ok to feed infants and toddlers fish?

  4. Jerome says:

    salmon or fish in general are the best source of protein, regardless of age. they can be easily digested since the flesh is soft enough for the body to acquire unlike dairy, poultry or pork meat that can take a long time to be digested. salmon is already reproduced through mass production, although studies have yet to show the effects if there are any on genetically enhanced salmon. basically salmon is a good option for protein diet plans. with regards to the danger to kids, there regulations on salmon harvest based on their migration paths.

  5. Kendall says:

    You listed salmon as a good source of omega 3 essential fatty acids. If I eat salmon, is it necessary to also take fish oil supplements? I have wondered about this question for some time. Here is what I found at http://www.buy-fish-oil.com/fish-oil-vs-salmon.php :

    “[Simply] taking fish oil supplements is not as optimal as taking fish oil in addition to frequently eating [cold-water fish such as salmon]. Why should you eat fish even if you already take fish oil? Because it is the only animal protein that happens to be poor in omega-6 fatty acids. Eating fish further helps to undo the ravages of our excess consumption of omega-6 fats.” 

    Do you happen to have any other information on this?
    Great information about DHA, infants and Peter Bechtel of Alaska’s Agricultural Research Service. Thanks
    Kendall

  6. Linda Crook says:

    Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development.

  7. Fadi says:

    Indeed, babies need nutrition from salmon baby food. However, this could also result to endanger salmon species.

  8. Shannon says:

    How much salmon roa should be given to toddlers and infants.I’ve been already given salmon to my baby since 8 months ,but havent tried the roe yet.

    I’d also love to see a recipe or two for babies with salmon roe.
    Thnx
    Shannon

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