Attention parents of challenging eaters, this blog post is for you! As a mother of two young children, I know firsthand the struggles of introducing new and healthy foods—like seafood—to kids. Children are certainly opinionated when it comes to trying new foods!
However, as a registered dietitian and nutritionist, I can tell you it is vital to fuel your child with nutritious foods that will contribute to optimal growth and development. Seafood is full of beneficial nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and vitamin B—all of which are crucial for strong, healthy babies and children.
Whether you’re introducing seafood for the first time or the tenth time, the good news is that there are so many different types of seafood to choose from. So, you’re bound to find several types of fish that your kids will love! Just remember to be persistent. Studies show that it may take up to 15 times (or more!) of introducing the same food before a child will show interest in it. Here are some other tips for turning those challenging eaters into seafood fans.
- Start ’em young. A general rule of thumb is to introduce seafood as early as possible. Try serving small pieces of tilapia, salmon and tuna (favorites in our house!) as finger foods to your early eaters and toddlers. And unless your family has a history of food allergies, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that infants older than 4 to 6 months may eat high-allergen foods, including fish and shellfish. (If you have a family history of food allergies, consult your pediatrician.) If your children are past the toddler stage, don’t fret. It’s never too late to introduce seafood, which provides a lifetime of health benefits.
- Offer twists on traditional recipes. Are your little ones fans of mac and cheese or chicken fingers? If so, ratchet those kid classics up a notch (in nutrients and taste!) with seafood. Simply mix canned or pouched tuna into mac and cheese for a protein-packed meal. Or, swap fried chicken fingers for lightly breaded and baked fish sticks (made with salmon or white fish), which will deliver a healthier—but equally satisfying—meal option. And, don’t forget their favorite dipping sauce! Whatever your children’s favorite dish, try it with seafood this week. They’ll recognize the same basic flavors, and I think you’ll be surprised by the clean plates!
- Cook together. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that all of us—that means moms, dads and kids—eat seafood at least twice a week. One easy and fun way to hook children on nutritious foods (and create lasting memories!) is to bring your budding chefs into the kitchen with you. Studies show that including your children in meal planning, shopping and cooking is key to getting them to try new foods, like seafood. Pro tip: Measure out ingredients in plastic bowls first, then invite your little chef in to help mix and prepare. Then, take a deep breath and prepare to have a fun (albeit messy) time!
Kids are more inclined to eat meals they had a hand in preparing, and you’ll feel great about giving them #Seafood2xWeek! Below are some of my favorite kid-approved seafood dishes to get your started.
Family favorites, from my house to yours…