How to get children to take fish oil

If you have trouble getting your child to take fish oil, here’s some strategies that will help him or her to love it!

Photo: Omega3 Innovations Omega Cure, Omega Cookie, and Omega Passion chocolate truffle by Omega3 Innovations.

Photo: Omega3 Innovations
Omega Cure, Omega Cookie, and Omega Passion chocolate truffle by Omega3 Innovations.

May-Elise Martinsen

New York, N.Y.

Growing up, I hated fish. Worse than that, I despised all sea-related foods: fiskekaker in white sauce, breaded cod fillets presented in kid-friendly packages, elaborate salmon dishes prepared by my near-gourmet chef grandmother. And let’s not even get started on fish oil. Seeing the green glow of the cod liver oil bottle in the refrigerator sent shivers down my spine. Perhaps disliking fish is not an uncommon problem in American children between the ages of three and 10. I know adults who swear off fish and can’t stomach the thought of cod liver oil.

However, when you are a little girl growing up in Norway, the homeland of fish and fish oil, refusing to take your daily dose of omega3 is downright shameful.

In Norway, consuming cod liver oil is something of a national pastime. From grandparents to the smallest infants, everyone laps up spoonfuls of oil every day, bonding over the fact that it keeps them strong and hardy. Strong and hardy is, after all, what a Norwegian ought to be.

Imagine my parents’ horror when I wouldn’t even eat a bite of salmon, let alone take my cod liver oil. Even more embarrassing, my physician parents specialized in nutrition and omega3 fish oil.

How could their own daughter thwart their efforts to make the world a healthier place?

Luckily, my parents did not give up the fish oil fight, and we all learned a few good lessons as a result. What follows is a foolproof series of tips for how to get even the most stubborn Norwegian-American child to enjoy her daily omega3.

Step 1: Start with Fresh Fish Oil

In the early days, my parents employed a variety of tactics to get me to take my two teaspoons of cod liver oil in the morning. There was the strongarm approach: “If you don’t take your fish oil, you can’t have dessert tonight.”

There was the disguise method: “Wouldn’t you like some orange juice today, my darling?” This particular method taught me to be paranoid at a young age.

In spite of their attempts, my parents didn’t have any real luck until we moved to the United States and they developed Omega Cure®, a cod liver oil so fresh it didn’t have any taste or smell. Suddenly, the game changed entirely. This new, fresh fish oil didn’t have me burping all day, nor did it leave a horrid, fishy aftertaste in my mouth.

It wasn’t until years later that we realized the significance of fresh fish oil. Besides tasting better, we started finding new studies that indicated taking fresh fish oil was healthier as well.

The fact is many omega3 fish oils on the market are rancid. One study from Norway showed that in a sample of over 50 different fish oils, 95 percent were oxidized well beyond industry standards. Other investigations of over-the-counter omega3s found anywhere between 11 to 62 percent of the tested fish oil products to be rancid. Considering those high statistics, I feel somewhat virtuous recalling how adamantly I refused my parents’ fish oil in those early years.

When I talk to parents about fish oil today, I tell them that if their children purse their lips at the silver spoon or capsule, perhaps they should consider a new brand of omega3.

Often, your children’s instincts are right, and they shouldn’t consume that oil. After all, swallowing spoiled fish oil just like drinking spoiled milk isn’t good for you.

On the plus side, fresh fish oil is available. By choosing fresh fish oil, you not only empower your child with better nutrition, but suddenly, her omega3 experience becomes much easier to swallow.

Step 2: Play with the Texture

Even though my parents had solved the taste and smell problem by developing a fresh fish oil, I was still skeptical of the oily texture. If your child is equally stubborn, you may have to go the extra mile to make her omega3 experience enjoyable. No worries, though. Solving the texture issue is easy and can be good creative fun once you get started.

Omega3 fish oil mixes easily with other foods, particularly dairy products because they contain a little bit of fat. Just like other oils, omega3 fish oil binds to the fat molecules in food, creating a pleasant blend. For example, yogurts, smoothies and mayonnaise allow you to easily add cod liver oil and then stir until the oil has completely disappeared into the swirl of familiar tastes.

That’s just the beginning. From those suggestions, you and your child can invent a myriad of tasty combinations.

Please note that step two is completely dependent upon step one. Your child will still be able to detect the omega3 in the smoothie or the yogurt if the oil has a distinctive flavor. Therefore, make sure you invest in fresh, unflavored fish oil before you try your mixture.

Step 3: Try Cookies. Try Chocolate.

By this step, my younger self would consent to taking cod liver oil without a fight. Still, I didn’t exactly enjoy the experience. My fish fears were so ingrained, I needed more help.

So what do you do for a child with real fish oil problems?

My father’s solution: Break the association to fish altogether by baking it into cookies and chocolates. That idea lead to the development of the Omega Cookie® and the Omega Passion® chocolate truffles. Today, patented technology allows the Omega Cookie or Omega Passion to conceal all traces of cod liver oil with tempting flavors such as oatmeal chocolate chip and oatmeal cranberry. Not even the most skeptical child will be able to guess at the ingredients.

(Unless she decides to read the ingredient list…and if she does that, kudos to her!)

Of course, I probably should have known something was fishy when I found my father, a man who never bakes, in the kitchen with a platter of warm chocolate chip cookies. I should have realized he was smiling a bit too widely as he presented me with my after school treat.

But as I bit into that chocolate chip cookie and only smelled cinnamon and tasted melting dark chocolate bits, my fish oil fears were finally cured. This wasn’t a daily chore. This was love at first bite.

Photo: Omega3 Innovations May-Elise Martinsen used to shudder at the sight of fish oil. Now, she calls herself a fish oil junkie!

Photo: Omega3 Innovations
May-Elise Martinsen used to shudder at the sight of fish oil. Now, she calls herself a fish oil junkie!

A Fish Oil Junkie

As traumatizing as my early fish oil memories might have been, I can now, at the ripe old age of 23, look back at those experiences and smile.

As my mother puts it, I have become a fish oil junkie. I eat it in chocolate and in cookies for lunch.

I add it to ice cream. I pour my dose into a shot glass, then top it off with a few drops of juice to chase it down. Sometimes, I drink it straight from a silver spoon, and lick my lips afterward.

Perhaps pairing cod liver oil with ice cream is not the old-fashioned Norwegian way. But at least I can say with pride that I take my fish oil every day, and am feeling strong and hardy at last.

This article originally appeared in the September 20, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.