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Getting Children to Eat Fish

The bounty of the sea offers a bounty of nutrition—protein, zinc and other minerals, omega-3 fatty acids—for your children. But those nutrients aren’t going to be helpful if your kids won’t eat fish.

“Seafood is one of the last foods a lot of kids will try,” says Anne Wolfe Postic at CoolMomEats. “I get it. It’s not quite meat (i.e., a nugget), it definitely isn’t a vegetable and it isn’t a delicious starch.”

That’s why expanding your kids’ palates now will pay health dividends as they grow. Here’s how.

Choose Safe Seafood

Some fish and other types of sea creatures tend to carry mercury, a metal with toxic effects, in their bodies. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, some of the safest seafood includes:

  • Catfish (US raised)
  • Crab
  • Flounder/Sole
  • Pollock
  • Salmon (wild)
  • Sardines
  • Scallops
  • Sea Bass
  • Shrimp
  • Tilapia
  • Trout

Tuna, a kid favorite, contains moderate amounts of mercury. When choosing canned tuna, look for North Atlantic or Pacific albacore, and limit servings to two a month for children under 5 years of age.

Start Early

Include tiny (and always cooked) bits of fish like salmon when you first start giving your baby finger foods at about nine months. This will acclimate your child to the flavor and consistency of fish at an age when his or her tastes are most malleable.

Play It Cool

Older children are notorious for not wanting foods forced on them...so check your emotions at the door when introducing them to seafood. “If you’re tempted to cheer or clap when your child takes a bite, or show disappointment when it doesn’t work out, know that this may ultimately influence how your child feels about fish,” says childhood nutrition expert Jill Castle, MS, RDN.

Use Comfort Foods

Does your child love mac and cheese, or tacos, or lasagna? Adding fish to these perennial kid favorites is a great way to introduce it to their diets.

Make Fish Look Fun

Sometimes, presentation is everything. “Kids are swayed by the appearance of food, and this alone can determine whether a child will try fish or not,” says Castle. Her suggestions? “Fish skewered on sticks, sautéed on a bed of pasta, grilled or baked in a boat.”

Get Messy

“Preparing and eating seafood can be the ultimate hands-on activity,” says Postic. “I mean, what kid won’t want to use a crab cracker? It’s a dramatic-looking tool and you use it to break things.” So cover the backyard table with newspapers, pour some melted butter and other dips into cups, and have everyone dive right in!

Dips Are Your Friends

Speaking of dips: Is there anything kids love more than dipping food into stuff? Marinara, teriyaki, hummus...whatever your child favors can become a perfect dip for fish.

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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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