When his daughter Rebecca was born 13 years ago, David Katz, M.D., associate clinical professor of public health and medicine at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, CT, became interested in how omega-3 fatty acids -- found in nuts, fish, and flaxseed -- may help bolster brain function in children. "The research looked promising, but there wasn't enough of it to draw conclusions," he says. "Still, I asked my wife, Catherine, to eat a little more fish so her breast milk would be especially rich in these fatty acids."
As his family grew (the Katzes have five children, ranging from 2 to 13 years old), so did the number of studies on omega-3s. By the time Dr. Katz started working on his recently published textbook, Nutrition in Clinical Practice, all the proof he needed was there. "After I'd written 41 chapters, the evidence was just overwhelming," he says. "Omega-3 fatty acids are brain food for kids."
The Katzes made a plan so their children would get one kid-size serving of omega-3s a day -- that's 2 1/2 ounces of fish, a tablespoon of flaxseed or flaxseed oil, or 1/2 ounce of nuts. "One serving is plenty to reap the benefits," Dr. Katz says.
Twice a week, Catherine pan broils or grills seafood. "The kids don't put up a fuss because we started giving them talapia, a mild whitefish, when they were little -- around their first birthday," she says. "I serve it with a cold marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, capers, and fresh chives." (The American Academy of Pediatrics advises waiting until your child turns 1 before serving fish. Delay it until age 3 if you have a family history of food allergies.)
When they're not having fish for dinner, the Katzes make sure their kids eat flaxseed or flaxseed oil, which the family buys at a health food store. The kids sprinkle the seeds on their cereal or toss their salads in a dressing made from a 50-50 mixture of flaxseed oil and balsamic vinegar. On Friday, Catherine bakes the seeds in desserts. "That's our family night. We munch on desserts as we watch a video," says Dr. Katz. "It's the best."