Wholesome Child : Wholesome Child full
141 140 141 step 4: boost protein Lamb Koftas, (see recipe on page 155) Heavy metal mercury: should i worry? There is often discussion about the pros and cons of eating fish, as many parents are worried about the heavy metal mercury levels. Heavy metal mercury is a pollutant generated by coal plants and other industrial activity. It settles into oceans where bacteria convert it into methyl mercury, a form readily absorbed by the human body. This mercury builds up in fish, particularly large predators such as tuna, swordfish and sharks. Mercury is particularly dangerous for small children, because it can affect brain development. However, limiting or avoiding fish during early childhood can often mean missing out on important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health. It is recommended that children up to six years of age follow the same guidelines used in pregnancy, as an increased susceptibility to mercury may exist in the first few years of life when the brain is rapidly developing. Choose fish wisely for children, focusing on low mercury fish that is either wild-caught or organically farmed. Some wild fish (usually predators) are higher in mercury, a particular concern for young children up until age six. As a general rule, eating smaller species of fish is best. Avoid top predator fish like shark, swordfish, grouper and marlin as they have more mercury, and instead choose seafood that is lower on the food chain, like sardines. Whenever you buy fish, ask where it’s from, whether it’s wild or farmed and if it’s sustainably fished. It is also wise to keep a smart phone handy when shopping for fish so that you can check the mercury content. I suggest using the Fish4Health app, available for free through iTunes. If you do feed your child a serve of fish that might be high in mercury, stay away from all other seafood for up to a fortnight. Fish vs shellfish Shellfish are generally not as rich in omega-3s as most fish. Lobster, for example, contains very few omega-3s, and shrimp and clams are pretty modest contributors too. Shellfish allergies are also among the most common of food allergies. Shrimp, crab and lobster cause most shellfish allergies. While reactions vary, they do tend to be severe (such as anaphylaxis). To prevent a reaction, strict avoidance of shellfish and shellfish products is essential. Always read ingredient labels to identify shellfish ingredients. If you are going to introduce shellfish to your child, start with one new type at a time at home rather than at a restaurant. What about sushi? Raw seafood used in sushi or sashimi certainly has its health benefits, especially salmon which is high in omega-3s. However, raw fish or shellfish may contain common bacteria like Listeria or Salmonella and parasites, all of which can cause serious illnesses in young children. The FDA in the US recommends that children under five don’t consume raw fish or shellfish. Raw shellfish is considered the most dangerous to eat because it’s most likely to be contaminated. If you are going to eat sushi, buy it from a well-established restaurant and eat it as soon as possible. I do not recommend purchasing sushi and sending it to school. How to get your kids to eat meat (and fish) Some children are born carnivores and will eat meat off the bone while others find it 1. Choose wild fish whenever possible as it’s free from GMOs, antibiotics and other chemicals. 2. Buy organic salmon if wild is not available and avoid conventional farmed salmon that is often fed processed high-fat feed in order to produce larger fish. 3. Choose canned fish in spring water or extra virgin olive oil. Start off with salmon or sardines as they contain higher levels of omega-3s. 4. Replace takeaway fish and chips and store- bought fish fingers with homemade, low- mercury variations (see page 57). 5. Look for sustainably caught fish. According to Greenpeace, when shopping for canned tuna products, look for ‘pole and line’ caught tuna and try to avoid buying yellowfin tuna. Make sure the tuna you buy has the species name (skipjack is best), where it was caught, and the fishing method used displayed clearly on the label. Five tips for buying fish MEATBALLS c Hamburger patties, meatloaf, mince in tacos. CHICKEN NUGGETS c Prepare homemade healthy versions, turkey nuggets, schnitzel. SLICED DELI MEATS c Avoid store-bought options that are high in nitrates. Instead, slice homemade roasts finely and freeze into small portions for ease of use. FISH FINGERS c Prepare healthier versions like our homemade Fish Fingers (see recipe on page 57). Try to stretch your child’s repertoire Did you know? Plant-based omega-3 fats, such as flaxseed oil and walnuts, are important for good health. However less than 10 per cent is converted into EPA and DHA. Fish oil, on the other hand, provides pre-formed EPA and DHA.