Low rates of fish and seafood consumption reported in Canadian children

In a study posted in the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, researchers identify the causal relationship between parental factors and seafood consumption in Canadian children.

Study: Parental Cooking Confidence is Associated with Children’s Intake of Fish and Seafood. Image Credit: Monkey Business Images /


One of the major nutritional requirements in children is that of N-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which are inherently present in seafood and fish. Standard recommendations often advise two servings of seafood and fish; however, several studies have reported the consumption of less than one serving each week in over 70% of children in North America.

Extrapolated studies from adults have identified several factors that contribute to seafood and fish consumption, ranging from geography, education, taste, age, and cooking skills. Notably, this relationship remains unexplored in children.

It remains unknown whether parental influences contribute to nutritional perceptions in children. Thus, understanding what influences parents have in their child’s eating habits will help develop strategies to improve the consumption of foods rich in PUFAs in children.

About the study

The current cross-sectional study included data from 40 children of 28 parents who had participated in the pilot, family-based, long-term Guelph Family Health Study. Parents were surveyed between March 2019 and May 2020.

According to the inclusion criteria, only one parent in each household completed the questionnaire, and a minimum of one child was between 18 months to five years of age. Additionally, the parent was also required to have some basic responsive understanding of English to complete the questionnaire. All study participants were residents of Wellington, Ontario.

Frequency was used to report family income, parent qualifications, and ethnic origins. Logistic regression analysis was used to assess the relationship between parental variables and children’s consumption of seafood and fish once each month.

Study findings

Among the study participants, parents were between 28 and 46 years of age, whereas all children were between five and ten years of age. Over 85% of the 24 parents and 90% of the 36 children included in the study were of White ethnicity.

All parents had some college education, 48% of whom had graduate degrees. The participants’ yearly household incomes were in the range of $40,000 -$150,000, 64% of whom had incomes above $100,000.

According to the parent’s responses, every child in the study consumed seafood and fish once every year, whereas 63% consumed seafood every month. Saltwater fish was consumed the most, as 63% of children consumed it at least once every month, and 20% consumed it once a week.

Moreover, 23% of the children consumed freshwater fish once a month, none of whom consumed this type of fish once a week. Shellfish was consumed by 33% of children once a month and less than five children once a week.

Cooking confidence demonstrated by parents had a positive correlation with monthly seafood and fish consumption by children.


Previous research has indicated that many North American children do not consume two servings of fish or seafood every week to meet PUFA consumption recommendations. Likewise, 80% of the children in the present study consumed less than one serving of fish or seafood each week.

The study findings also suggest that a child’s consumption of fish and seafood will mirror that of the parent. Children’s nutritional outcomes are improved by parents modeling healthy eating behaviors; therefore, encouraging parents to consume fish and seafood may also promote the consumption of these foods by their children.

These observations are in accordance with previous investigations, in which proficiency in cooking is an influential variable in the consumption of fish and seafood. Thus, to improve the consumption of these foods, families may need assistance and instruction regarding cooking techniques and recipes to improve their self-confidence when making these dishes at home.

There are several limitations in this study, including small sample size and narrow geographic emphasis, as Wellington County is an interior area of Ontario, Canada, with little variation in parental age, ethnic variety, education level, and socio-economic status. Additionally, allergies to seafood or fish, which could significantly affect fish/seafood intake, were not taken considered, as parents were not questioned regarding that.

Journal reference:
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