The Best Fish Oil for Kids of 2022, According to a Dietitian

Our top pick is Nordic Naturals Children's DHA

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Verywell / Sabrina Jiang

Fish oil is an excellent source of two forms of omega 3 fats, known as DHA and EPA, which are vital in many aspects of health, growth and development. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommends that children eat fish one to two times a week. However, “since most children are not taking in enough fish to meet their DHA and EPA needs, supplementation may be necessary,” says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, CPT, a Registered Dietitian specializing in pediatric and women’s health. 

Specific to children, research is examining the benefits of sufficient omega-3 intake and the potential benefits of supplementation. Studies have shown that fish oil supplementation may reduce ADHD symptoms in children. Though more research needs to be done, fish oil supplements may also have positive effects on mood, memory, and brain development, and may reduce symptoms of asthma.

Similar to other vitamin and mineral supplements, it is always important to speak to a pediatric health care provider before starting a fish oil supplement. When selecting a fish oil supplement, there are many formulation options available—liquid, gummy, and softgel—choose the one that best suits your child’s chewing and swallowing abilities. Ensure the one you choose is third party tested, formulated for children, and free of artificial colors and flavors as well as heavy metals.

Verywell Family Approved Fish Oil Supplements

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and which dosage to take.

Are Fish Oil Supplements Beneficial for Kids?

Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines are rich in the EPA and DHA omega 3 fats that research has shown to be beneficial for health. However, if your kids don't eat fish, you may be wondering if they can get enough omega 3s from plant foods. Indeed, foods like walnuts, flax, canola oil, soy, and chia seeds, also contain omega 3 fats. However, the form of omega 3s these plant foods have, known as ALA, is not as easily converted into the EPA and DHA forms.

Therefore, it may be beneficial to ensure your child is regularly eating fatty fish or to consider supplementing with DHA and EPA. Those who may benefit from a fish oil supplement include:

Children who rarely eat fish: Manaker suggests that “children may need to be exposed to fish a few times before they accept the unique taste. Adding fish to familiar foods like mac and cheese may help children eat this source of omegas a little easier.” If they still aren't eating fish regularly, talk to a healthcare provider about adding a fish oil supplement.

Children with ADHD: Fish oil is not a treatment for ADHD, however, there is some research showing that omega-3 fatty acids from either fish or plant sources may benefit children with the disorder when it comes to symptom improvement. If your child has this diagnosis, it may be worth a discussion with your healthcare provider.

Children with asthma or family history of asthma: Research has shown positive evidence with early introduction of fish (between 6-9 months of age) in addition to regular fish consumption (at least 1 time per week), as the child grows in the reduction of asthma symptoms. While these studies looked at fish consumption, it may be worth asking a pediatric healthcare provider about a fish oil supplement for children with asthma who do not regularly consume fish.

Children with behavior or mood disorders: A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids may improve the quality of life and mental health status in children with emotional and behavioral issues. However, while there is research in this area, the studies are small. Dosing also varied from study to study. More research needs to be done, specifically in children. Most importantly, if your child struggles with behavior or a mood disorder, it is a good idea to discuss the pros and cons of omega-3 supplementation with a healthcare provider.

Children Who May Not Benefit from Fish Oil Supplements

Those who eat seafood 1-2 times per week: As stated previously, the AAP states that children eating fatty fish one to two times per week are likely meeting their omega-3 needs for growth and development. “Fish, especially oily coldwater fish like salmon, is one of the richest sources of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids and supports brain, eye, and heart health,” says Manaker. 

Those with a fish or shellfish allergy: Allergic reactions can be serious. If your child is allergic to fish or shellfish, talk to a healthcare provider about the best supplementation option.

Those following a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle: If you and your family follow a vegetarian lifestyle, consuming a fish-based supplement may be something you are uncomfortable with. If that is the case, consuming omega-3 rich foods is important for your little one. You may also want to consider speaking to a healthcare provider about a vegan, algae-based supplement to help meet your child’s needs.

Those taking anticoagulant medications: Omega-3 supplements may interact with anticoagulant medications such as warfarin, heparin or other direct thrombin inhibitors. If your child is on such medications, speak with your child’s healthcare provider about possible interactions and increased bleeding risk.

Best Overall: Nordic Naturals Children’s DHA

Nordic Naturals Children’s DHA

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Friend of the Sea (FOS) certified

  • Certificate of Analysis available for every batch of fish oil produced

  • Triglyceride form

Cons
  • Must refrigerate after opening

What do buyers say? 20,000+ iHerb reviewers rated this product 5 stars.

Nordic Naturals Children’s DHA liquid wins for best overall pick because, in just ½ teaspoon, it provides 530 milligrams of omega-3s (170 milligrams from EPA, 255 milligrams from DHA, and another 105 milligrams from other omega-3s). Dosages can easily be adjusted for children ages one to six.

Nordic Naturals Children’s DHA is made exclusively from arctic cod liver oil in triglyceride form to allow for the best absorption. Nordic Naturals sticks to strict manufacturing principles, making everything non-GMO and third-party tested. Certificates of Analysis are available for any product produced so you can always see the testing performed on your bottle. 

Nordic Naturals is Friend of the Sea (FOS) certified, which verifies that their fish are sustainably sourced, and comes in both orange and strawberry flavor options.

Servings Per Container: 96 | Daily Dosage: ½ teaspoon | Type: Liquid | Age Rec: 1-6 years

Best Budget: Barlean's Omega Pals Chirpin' Slurpin' Lemonade

Barlean's Lipsmackin' Citrus Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement

Swanson Vitamins

Pros
  • Top pick by ConsumerLab

  • 4 flavor options

  • Oil from small-bodied fish, lower risk of heavy metal contamination

Cons
  • Must refrigerate after opening

  • Contains sugar alcohols

Barleans Omega Pals Lipsmackin’ Citrus Omega 3 Fish oil provides 750 mgs of omega-3s (455 milligrams EPA, 295 milligrams DHA, and 185 milligrams of other omega-3 fatty acids) in a serving size of 1 ½ teaspoons. The texture is more like a smoothie than an oil, therefore, your kiddo may take it straight from the spoon or you can mix it into a yogurt, oatmeal or applesauce.

Barleans prefer to use oil from small-bodied fish (anchovy and sardine) as these fish tend to have a much less incidence of heavy metal burden, such as mercury. Barleans also follows strict NSF Good Manufacturing principles to ensure quality, and every product they make is third-party tested. Their Barleans “Look It Up” program verifies this. 

Barleans is non-GMO and free of gluten, dairy, artificial flavors and colors. It also comes in hooty fruity tangerine, lipsmackin' citrus, and sensational straw-nana flavor options.

Servings Per Container: 29 | Daily Dosage: 1 ½ teaspoon | Type: Liquid | Age Rec: 4+ years

Best Liquid: Carlson Kid’s Norwegian The Very Finest Fish Oil Omega 3s

 Carlson Kid's The Very Finest Fish Oil Liquid

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Friend of the Sea (FOS) certified

  • 3 flavor options

  • International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) certified

Cons
  • Must refrigerate after opening

Carlson Kids The Very Finest Fish Oil provides 800 milligrams of omega-3s (400 milligrams of EPA and 250 milligrams of DHA) in just a ½ teaspoon serving. With three flavor options, you are bound to find one your child likes. Of note, this fish oil supplement contains 22-55% of the daily value of vitamin E, depending on how old the child is. So, if your child is taking other supplements, make sure they do not exceed their daily needs.

Carlson Labs was one of the first to launch omega-3 supplementation here in the United States. They focus on sustainable sourcing and high quality products. They are FOS certified and also International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) certified. IFOS is a certification created by the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical company nutrasource that verifies product safety, purity, and label accuracy.

Carlson Labs The Finest Fish oil is non-GMO and free of artificial preservatives. They prioritize quality and freshness by bottling the fish oil with antioxidants and using a nitrogen flush to prevent oxidation (spoilage).

Servings Per Container: 40 | Daily Dosage: ½ teaspoon | Type: Liquid | Age Rec: 2+ years

Best Chewable: Nordic Naturals Children’s DHA Chewable Soft Gels

Nordic Naturals Children’s DHA Chewable Soft Gels

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Friend of the Sea (FOS) certified

  • Certificate of Analysis available for every batch of fish oil produced

  • No added sweeteners

Cons
  • Multiple softgels in order to meet serving size


Nordic Naturals Children’s DHA Chewable is a great option if your kiddo wants something to chew instead of a liquid. In three chewable softgels, your child will receive 636 milligrams of omega-3s (165 milligrams from EPA, 375 milligrams from DHA, and another 96 milligrams from other omega-3s). Your child will need to be able to comfortably chew and swallow softgels before trying this supplement.

Similar to Nordic Naturals Children’s DHA Liquid, the chewable version is made exclusively from arctic cod liver oil and offered in triglyceride form to allow for the best absorption. Strict manufacturing principles are followed in production; the final product is non-GMO, sustainably-sourced and third-party tested. 

Certificates of Analysis are available for any product produced so you can always see the testing performed on your bottle prior to opening.

Servings Per Container: 30 | Daily Dosage: 3/day | Type: Chewable softgel | Age Rec: 3-6 years

Best Vegan: Garden of Life Plant Omega-3 Liquid

Garden of Life Plant Omega-3 Liquid

Amazon

Pros
  • Non-GMO, certified vegan, gluten-free, and kosher

  • FOS certified

Cons
  • Contains tree nuts (coconut) and alternative sweetener (stevia)

  • Not third party certified & slightly lower in DHA & EPA

  • Must refrigerate after opening

Garden of Life Kids Plant Omega-3 is your choice if looking for a vegan option to help meet the omega-3 needs of your little one. The certified vegan supplement provides 880 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (including 100 milligrams of EPA, 265 milligrams of DHA and 500 milligrams of ALA) in 2.5 milliliters or about ½ teaspoon. This is a significant amount especially if your child is missing omega-3 food sources in their daily intake.

Garden of Life is non-GMO, verified and certified vegan, gluten-free and kosher. There is no soy or dairy in this product, however, it does contain tree nuts in the form of coconut from the Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) included. Research does not support the health benefits of MCT oil in the general population.

The strawberry liquid provides its omega-3s from flax and algae and is sweetened with Stevia to help with palatability.

Servings Per Container: 23 | Daily Dosage: ½ teaspoon | Type: Liquid | Age Rec: 4+ years

Best Multi with Fish Oil: SmartyPants Kids Formula Daily Gummy Multivitamin

SmartyPants Kids Complete Daily Gummy Vitamins

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • NSF and Clean Label Certified

  • Multivitamin and Omega-3 in one

  • Free of artificial dyes, flavors and major allergens

Cons
  • Includes added sugar

  • Will still need additional omega-3 foods to meet daily needs

If you are on the hunt for a single product to help your child's vitamin, mineral and fish oil needs, opt for the SmartyPants Kids Formula complete with added omega-3s. In 4 gummies, your child will be getting 100 milligrams of omega-3s and 15 essential nutrients, including vitamins A, D, C, E K, folate, choline, zinc, and B12 to name a few.

The total omega-3 amount in this supplement is low when compared to the recommended amount for 4 to 8 year olds of 900 milligrams of ALA. If you are choosing this supplement as a way to for your child to get in a multivitamin and omega-3s, you will still need to focus on including omega-3 foods throughout the day. If your kiddo already eats fish, but needs a bit more omega 3s to meet their needs, then this may be a good option.

SmartyPants has many certifications to help you feel comfortable with what you are giving to your child. This supplement is NSF and Clean Label Certified, and SmartyPants products are free of artificial colors, sweeteners and flavors in addition to major allergens such as soy, gluten, dairy, and eggs.

Servings Per Container: 22 | Daily Dosage: 4 gummies | Type: Gummy | Age Rec: 4+ years

Final Verdict

If you are on the market for a high quality, sustainably sourced, third-party tested omega-3 supplement for your kiddo, try Nordic Naturals Children’s DHA Liquid. If you're looking for a slightly more affordable option without sacrificing any quality, try Barlean's Omega Pals Chirpin' Slirpin' Lemonade.

How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here

We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products. We prioritize products that are third-party tested and certified by one of three independent, third party certifiers: USP, NSF, or ConsumerLab. We also prioritize non-GMO, Organic, and products that are free of unnecessary and potentially harmful additives. 

It's important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.

What to Look for in a Fish Oil Supplement for Kids

Third-Party Testing

Supplements that are third-party tested are sent to a lab where they are tested to ensure they contain what they say they contain and are not contaminated with specific high-risk, common contaminants. However, it’s important to note:

  1. Third party testing does not test to see if a product is effective or safe for everyone, and it does not ensure the supplement will not interact with other supplements or medications.
  2. Not all third-party testing is created equal. It is not uncommon for supplement companies to pay labs for certificates after conducting minimal to no testing. 
  3. The third party certifications we can trust are: ConsumerLab, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations. 
  4. Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive to try to offset the cost they pay for certification.
  5. Just because a supplement is not tested by one of these three companies, it does not mean it’s a bad product. We recommend doing some research on the reputability of the manufacturer, and calling up the manufacturer and their testing lab to determine their protocols and decide if you feel comfortable consuming the supplement.

Unfortunately, fish and fish oil may contain contaminants referred to as persistent organic pollutants (POPS). These are toxic chemicals that can negatively affect human health. They are transported by wind and water, therefore very difficult to control in our environment.

The consumption of fatty fish and fish oil supplements has become a point of entry for POPs to enter the human body, which in turn exposes our bodies to toxic compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCs). PCBs specifically have been shown to disrupt endocrine and cognitive development in children.

All fish contain trace amounts of mercury. Some fish, however, contain a much higher amount than others. Mercury can be toxic to the human nervous system and potentially cause irreversible damage. Because of this, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns to limit consumption of fish to no more than two times a week for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children.

To mitigate health risks associated with fish and fish oil supplements, there are various techniques manufacturers can implement to ensure quality and safety standards are met. Third party testing for heavy metals and contaminants is critical when choosing a supplement for your child. You also want to ensure the manufacturer you choose uses sustainable sourcing methods to ensure their fish come from healthy fisheries.

Form

Omega-3 fatty acids come in three different forms:

  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
  • ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)

EPA and DHA (sometimes referred to as marine omega-3s) are found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines, and some algae. ALA is found in plants like walnuts, flax, canola oil, soy and chia seeds.

When reading the label on omega-3 supplements, look for DHA and EPA on the ingredient list. Fish oil comes in a number of forms including ethyl esters (EE), triglycerides (TG), reformed triglycerides (rTG), free fatty acids (FFA) and phospholipids (PL). It has been found that the ethyl ester form is not as well absorbed as other forms, so choosing other forms is recommended.

Ingredients & Potential Interactions

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included, relative to the recommended daily value of that ingredient. Please bring the supplement label to your healthcare provider to review the different ingredients contained in the supplement and any potential interactions between these ingredients and other supplements and medications your child is taking.

Fish oil supplements are generally considered to be safe. Side effects of taking fish oil can include a fishy aftertaste, bad breath, indigestion, nausea, loose stools and a rash. As mentioned earlier, if your child is allergic to fish or shellfish, talk to a healthcare provider before starting a fish-based supplement.  

Some companies choose to sweeten their supplements with sugar alcohols. While these may make the fish oil supplement more palatable, they can may cause digestive discomfort.

Omega-3 supplements may interact with anticoagulant medications. If your child is on such medication, be sure to speak with a healthcare provider about possible interactions before starting.

Fish Oil Dosage for Kids

“The guidelines state that children should be eating 4-6 ounces of fish every week. However, most children are not coming close to that suggested quantity,” says Manaker. Because of this challenge in having your children meet the guidelines, you may be interested in having them start taking a fish oil supplement.

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your child’s routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your child’s needs and to understand which dosage to take.

Unfortunately, experts have not established recommended amounts for omega-3 fatty acids, except for ALA. In the United States, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has outlined average daily recommendations for ALA for all ages and genders.

  • Birth to 12 months* - 0.5 g (total omega-3s instead of ALA alone)
  • Children 1-3 years - 0.7 g ALA
  • Children 4-8 years - 0.9 g ALA
  • Boys 9-13 years - 1.2 g ALA
  • Girls 9-13 years - 1.0 g ALA
  • Teen boys 14-18 years - 1.6 g ALA
  • Teen girls 14-18 years - 1.1 g ALA

How Much is Too Much?

The FDA recommends consuming no more than 5 g/day of EPA and DHA combined from dietary supplements for adults. Unfortunately, there is not an established upper limit of fish oil supplementation set for children.

Side effects can be very unpleasant consisting of bad breath, nausea, stomach upset, diarrhea, fishy smell and headaches. Only provide your child with what they need for their age, according to the package directions, when dosing. It can also be helpful to speak with a pediatric healthcare provider to figure out if your child needs a supplement and how much.

Omega-3s can increase the risk of bleeding. Anyone with a family history of a bleeding disorder or on anticoagulant medications, should speak with a healthcare provider before starting supplementation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is fish oil good for kids?

    The main omega-3s found in fish are EPA and DHA, which play a role in a variety of functions throughout our bodies, including muscle activity, cell growth, brain development and brain function. Because of this, incorporating fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, which are rich in EPA and DHA, into your child’s daily diet is important to meet their growth demands. If this is not possible, a fish oil supplement may provide a number of the same benefits.

  • How much fish oil is appropriate for kids?

    We recommend speaking with a pediatric healthcare provider to discuss fish oil need, dosing, and safety for your child.

  • How do I make fish oil taste good for kids?

    For children and teens who are able to swallow a softgel, taste is usually not a problem. If they are complaining of an unpleasant aftertaste, it is sometimes helpful to keep the capsule in the refrigerator or freezer as this can mitigate the fishy taste. Refrigerating capsules is a win-win because it is often also necessary to keep the fish oil fresher for longer.

    For children not quite old enough for a softgel option who are taking a liquid or gummy supplement, our top picks are known to have pleasant flavors. If taste is an issue, liquid fish oil can mix in a smoothie, yogurt, applesauce—really any soft food that you know your child will eat. Another option is to provide the supplement straight off a spoon and follow it up with a beverage of choice to wash down any fishy aftertaste.

Why Trust Verywell Family

Brittany Scanniello, RD, is a registered dietitian-nutritionist and founder of Eat Simply Nutrition, a Colorado-based integrative nutrition company and private practice. She was previously a clinical pediatric dietitian, and one of her specialties in her current private practice is pediatric dietetics.

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Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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