While one of the concerns with eating seafood is mercury, the American Academy of Pediatrics says exposure can be minimized or avoided, and that parents should add fish to their child’s menu.
“We’re encouraging pediatricians to ask families about fish and shellfish consumption — since most children don’t eat much beyond the occasional fish sticks — and advise them on the healthiest choices,” said the report’s lead author Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH, FAAP, an executive committee member of the AAP Council on Environmental Health.
More research is needed, according to the AAP, but studies suggest seafood consumption may improve infant neurodevelopment and decrease cardiovascular disease risk. A growing body of research shows that introducing fish early in a child’s diet may even help prevent allergic diseases such as asthma and eczema. Many types of fish are high in vitamin D and calcium, and some are a rich source of long chain omega-3 fatty acids used by the body to build nerve cells in the brain and eyes.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency have guidelines of “best” and “good” seafood choices such as perch, cod, hake, salmon, shrimp, tilapia and tuna (canned light).
Families who eat freshwater fish caught locally should check advisories and limit servings to once a week if the body of water where they fish is not monitored.
The agencies recommend that children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding eat 1-2 weekly servings of a variety of fish among the “best” and “good” choices identified.