What the heck is flaxseed? Why is it so popular? And is flax good for kids and toddlers? In this post, we cover it all: what flax is, what it does for you, the difference between flaxseed and oil, how much to serve and how to serve it.
What Is Flax?
Flaxseed is the seed portion from the flax plant. It’s small, edible, and usually found in seed form. It is most commonly referred to as flax and flaxseed, but it will also respond to linseed, its more technical name. The flax plant originated in North Africa and—fun fact!—it has been used as a sustainable method of textile-making for centuries.
Recently, flax has undergone a bit of a glow-up, taking its place as not just a textile VIP but a nutritional one, too. It can be used in seed form, as a powder, and it can even be cold-pressed and extracted to become an oil that can be taken as a supplement. And, flax is completely safe for both kids and adults to consume.
But just because you can add flax to your diet, does that mean you should? Let’s get into it.
The Nutritional Benefits of Flaxseed
Flax is so popular that many people now refer to it as a “super seed” for all it can do. (Although I’m pretty sure all that means is it gets to hang out with other super seeds like chia and hemp in the cafeteria.)
But, the hype around flax isn’t just good P.R. Flaxseed does have a ton of benefits when added to a balanced diet! Here’s what makes flax so great:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat that our bodies need for things like energy production, brain development, and heart health. Some omega-3 fatty acids are produced by your body, but others aren’t. These ones are called ‘essential’ because it’s, well, essential that you consume them in your diet to help your body function at its best!
One type of essential omega-3 fatty acid, in particular (called Alpha Linolenic Acid or ALA), is found in flaxseed in large quantities. You and your child can get it from other foods, too, like fish, eggs, walnuts, and kidney beans. But flaxseed is very accessible and it’s often much easier to serve to children. Especially children that don’t particularly love a dinner of fish and kidney beans! Just add a little bit of ground flax to a smoothie or yogurt cup and know you’ve helped them meet their omega-3 goal for the day!
Flax is also a surprising source of protein. One tablespoon has almost 1 and a half grams. Keep flax in your back pocket if your child often refuses to eat meat or if your family follows a vegetarian or vegan diet!
Related: If Your Toddler Won’t Eat Meat
Fiber helps with gut health and bowel regularity. It can even help keep us feeling fuller for longer! So it’s definitely something to include in your child’s diet, and flax makes that relatively easy. In just one tablespoon of flax, you get 2 grams of fiber. That’s more fiber than what’s in ½ cup of asparagus!
Vitamins & Minerals
Flax is rich in various vitamins and minerals that our bodies—and our kids’ bodies—really need. From energy-boosting B vitamins to some of the lesser-known (but still vital) minerals like copper and manganese, it feels like there’s nothing flax doesn’t have.
So as much as there is a lot of hype and marketing around flax and its status as a super seed, it is mostly merited. It won’t change your life or help you tackle that mountain of laundry, but it’s a great seed to add to your child’s diet!
How To Serve Flaxseed To Your Child
Flax can be given to children of all ages, from about six months on. Basically, once they’re experimenting with foods, they can try flax. Use flax as part of your baby-led weaning or as an addition to pureed foods by adding it to mashed-up fruit, yogurt, or nut butter. Or, dust slippery foods, like avocado spears, with flaxseed to help your baby get a better grip!
Go For Ground Flaxseed for Toddlers and Kids
I like to opt for ground flaxseed when I’m serving it to my kids. Whole seeds might sound “better” (health influencers love a whole food, right?!), but they actually pass through the digestive system in-tact, without being broken down. So, our bodies don’t get as many nutrients out of the whole form of flaxseed as they do ground. Plus, the ground form is easier to digest!
I also love that ground flaxseed is easy to sprinkle on food and add to things like smoothies! It’s a really great way to add a little nutrition boost to foods they already love eating without changing the flavor.
And, in case you’ve heard this before, flaxseeds don’t need to be freshly ground to give you benefits. Buying them already milled or ground is okay! The brands I like best are listed below.
Don’t Overdo It With Flax
Avoid giving your child too much flaxseed, too soon. Flaxseed is high in fiber, and too much fiber can mess with kids’ digestion, leading to constipation, abdominal pain, gas, and bloating. Start slow and work up to the total daily recommendations we’ve outlined below, taking into account their total fiber consumption for the day.
|Child’s Age||Recommended Flax Serving|
|6-12 Months||1 Tbsp Flax/Day|
|1-3 Years||2 Tbsp Flax/Day|
|4 Years +||4 Tbsp Flax/Day Max|
Easy Ways To Add Flax To Your Child’s Food
I add flaxseed to so many of my kids’ foods. I’m not sneaky about it or anything, they see me doing it, and they don’t mind because it doesn’t really make a difference to them! Flax has a subtly nutty flavor, but it’s not overpowering. Often, it goes completely unnoticed, so even picky kids can be okay with adding it.
Here are some of my go-to ways to add flax to different meals and snacks for kids:
- Bake with flax. Muffins, banana bread, etc. all work great! I usually add 1 to 2 tbsp to the recipe and stir it in as one of the final ingredients.
- Add flax to smoothies. Add 1-2 tsp per serving and blend up with your normal ingredients.
- Use flax as a mix-in to foods like oatmeal. If your child is picky and likes plain oatmeal, start with just a little bit at a time—like ⅛ tsp. It’s nearly unnoticeable that way. Then, slowly increase to ¼ tsp, ½ tsp, then 1 tsp.
- Sprinkle flax into applesauce, onto yogurt, in any sort of nut butter, or on avocado toast.
- Include flax in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
- Put a tablespoon of flaxseed In your pancake batter.
- Mix flax into meatloaf, meatballs, or any ground meat dish. I usually add about 1 to 2 tablespoons per pound of meat.
- Stir flax into savory recipes like sauces, casseroles, and soups. Again, you’re usually safe adding about 1 to 2 tablespoons without any change to the taste or texture.
Here are some recipes that I always add flax to anytime I make them:
Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Healthy Apple Crisp Recipe (Low added sugar)
No Sugar Added Baked Oatmeal Bars
Mix, Sprinkle, or Bake With Flax
Flaxseeds don’t necessarily have to be mixed into foods. As long as they’re ground, the body can absorb all the nutrients from them—they don’t need to be added to a liquid. Feel free to sprinkle ground flax onto foods (more ideas on which foods to add flax to below), or throw them in the blender with your morning smoothie. You can even use flax as an egg substitute in more baking recipes—a great trick if your family is vegan or your child has an egg allergy!
How To Make A Flax Egg
- 1 Tbsp Ground Flaxseed
- 2.5-3 Tbsp Water
Mix your water and flaxseed together and let the mixture congeal for about 10 minutes. Then, use the mixture in place of an egg! It mimics the egg texture and works pretty well.
This makes one egg, but you can double or triple the recipe to make more!
Q: Where Do You Buy Flax?
A: You should be able to buy flaxseed either whole or ground at your local grocery store, but it is also available on Amazon, too! If you can, I recommend buying it pre-ground instead of whole. It’ll save you a step and increase the likelihood that you actually use it all up before it goes bad!
Q: How Long Does Flaxseed Last?
A: Flax can last you up to a year if it’s kept in the fridge, but of course, check the best before date on your bag to be sure. Pro-tip: Freeze your flax seeds to make them last even longer, especially if you buy a big Costco size bag! They stay fresher longer and it won’t change the taste or texture.
Q: What Brand or Type Should I Buy?
A: My personal favorite flaxseed brands, especially for picky eaters, are the ones that are very finely milled because they’re not gritty and really do mix into foods without being detectable. Check out these options:
Other Super Seeds & Their Benefits
Loving the ease of adding flax into your child’s food for a daily nutrition boost? Double down on your efforts by adding chia and hemp seeds, too!
Chia seeds are a great addition to your child’s diet. Like flaxseed, they provide fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals. But chia is also a complete protein, meaning it provides all the essential amino acids (proteins) that our bodies need but can’t create. Chia seeds have slightly fewer omega-3s than flaxseed, but they’re much richer in calcium and have a little more fiber than flax and hemp.
When it comes to mixing chia seeds into foods, it’s a bit less seamless than flax because they have a crunch that makes them more noticeable to kids—especially picky eaters. You can add them to a liquid to soften them up, but this makes them gelatinous, which your child will either love, tolerate, or despise. But the good news is that you can also buy chia seeds pre-ground! This is what I typically buy because I fall into the “despise” category when it comes to gelatinous whole chia texture.
We love a good hemp seed at my house! Hemp seeds are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber, and they have the highest protein content of these three super seeds. They do have the lowest fiber content, though! They also contain iron, zinc, and omega-6 fatty acids. So all in all, they’re a great add-in to most foods.
Do you need healthy snack ideas?
Maybe you’re thinking, “flaxseed for toddlers is definitely *goals,* but I’m just trying to keep my head above water right now! Is there anything store bought that can still make me feel like super mom in the nutrition department?”
Grab my healthy toddler snack guide!
For my USA friends, I’ve read the label on just about every packaged kids snack item there is to find the healthiest options for your little ones. Low added sugar, great ingredients, and yummy, of course!
This is a great substitute for eggs if you are out!
- 1 tbsp Ground flaxseed
- 2.5-3 tbsp Warm water
This makes one egg, but you can double or triple the recipe to make more!