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If your children are not eating fatty fish like salmon or sardines a couple of times a week, giving them a daily fish oil supplement might be a good idea.
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids (specifically DHA and EPA) that experts believe are important for children's brain and eye development. Cold-water fish – also referred to as fatty fish – contain the highest amounts of omega-3s.
In general, it's better if kids can get their nutrients from food – that way they'll benefit from other nutrients (like the protein and vitamin D in fish) at the same time. But your children might not eat enough of the right fish to give them a significant dose of omega-3s, particularly if you're trying to avoid serving them fish that's high in mercury.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that children 2 to 8 years old eat 3 to 6 ounces of fish and seafood per week, and that children 9 years old and older eat 8 to 10 ounces per week.
If you want to try supplements instead, you should know that we don't have conclusive evidence that supplements provide the same significant benefits as eating fish.
You can find omega-3 supplements in liquid, soft chews, and soft gel form, and some are flavored to mask the fishiness. Omega-3 supplements are mercury-free. Many contain fish oil, but mercury is not stored in fatty tissue, so it's not in the oil.
Other omega-3 supplements are derived from algae rather than fish. These supplements have no mercury and no fishy aftertaste, and they're even appropriate for vegetarians.
You'll want to try to make sure that any omega-3 supplement brand you choose filters the oil to eliminate toxins, such as PCBs. See our article on buying supplements for guidance.
Parent tips on how to get kids to take fish oil supplements