As national studies continue to accumulate suggesting the critical need for children to develop and maintain healthy eating habits, a survey out this week indicated that 91 percent of parents with children 12 years old and younger confirm that kids aren’t eating the recommended amount of two servings of seafood each week.

In addition, nearly half of the parents surveyed (42 percent) were unaware that seafood was even a good source of protein for their children.

“Seafood is one of the greatest super foods on the planet, and children should be eating more of it,” says Elizabeth Ward, nationally recognized registered dietitian, mother and author of several books about nutrition for children.

“Unfortunately, our generation of parents may be unaware of the incredible benefits seafood provides to children, and to the entire family, including protein and other essential nutrients.”

Ward is among the thousands of registered dietitians (R.D.s) in America today seeing the downward spiral in the eating habits of American kids, and advocates strongly for improved education and better nutrition for children to ensure they can achieve their greatest potential for health and wellness.

The survey, commissioned by SeaPak Shrimp Company, also found that 65 percent of parents who feed seafood to their children less than twice a year reported that they rarely or never ate seafood themselves as a child.

“Parents need to be strong role models for healthy eating,” Ward says. “Dozens of studies suggest that if healthy dietary habits, like eating seafood on a regular basis, aren’t formed in childhood they are unlikely to form in adulthood.”

Seafood is an excellent source of protein, provides omega-3 fatty acids necessary for brain development and vision, and supplies essential vitamins like B12 and D, along with important nutrients.

“Parents may not know the basic facts about seafood benefits, and there also may be certain beliefs about seafood that keep them from feeding their children more seafood,” Ward says. “Parents in the survey cited concerns over the presence of bones, how to prepare seafood, cost, and availability as reasons for not serving it to their children.

“Many may not realize that seafood can be as affordable today as many cuts of poultry and meat, and safety concerns over things like bones are really minimal thanks to new filleting technologies and outstanding seafood options.

“Parents should offer seafood to their children on a regular basis, as long as they are not allergic to it,” Ward says. “To increase seafood acceptance, place it alongside a familiar food”

Shrimp is a good choice to start with – 65 percent of parents in the survey said that shrimp was their child’s favorite seafood, followed by whitefish such as flounder and tilapia, and tuna.

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