Greetings to all our Seafoodie parents!
Oh, boy! Encouraging the kiddos to try new foods can sure feel like an Olympic-level challenge. The mood is intense, the stakes are high and the competition can be fierce! But during their formative years, it’s imperative for children to receive proper nutrition, including the essential nutrients found in seafood. So before you throw in the towel and whip up another PB&J, check out why you should (and how you can!) get your kids to eat more fish. Follow our tips, and you’ll get high taste marks from your little Seafoodie judges while delivering a gold-medal nutritional performance. Let the games begin!
First, let’s start with some basics. We often talk about how the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) encourage us to eat seafood two to three times a week. This guideline is especially important for babies and children: early brain development depends on omega-3s like DHA and EPA, and seafood (such as salmon or cod) is the premier dietary source of these healthy fatty acids. Starting the youngsters on seafood early—the DGA suggests beginning as young as 6 months of age—will keep their growing bodies strong and promote lifelong healthy eating habits.
Omega-3s also can help improve attention, focus, reading and memory, which are important to kids throughout school and beyond. Plus, seafood provides a host of other kid-friendly nutrients. It’s an excellent source of protein, which builds muscle and encourages a top-top metabolism. Plus, seafood is one of the few food sources of vitamin D, which promotes proper growth and bone health. And the list goes on! And no need to fret if your older child is starting to eat seafood… the bottom line is that it’s never too late to incorporate more seafood into your kids’ diet!
Not sure where to start? Here are a few of our favorite tips for making seafood a regular part of your kids’ diets:
- Start small. Introduce pouched or canned salmon or tuna—or bite-sized pieces of cooked salmon—to babies and toddlers who are just starting on solids. For older kids, finger foods such as our Mac-and-Cheese Tuna Bites may feel less intimidating than a whole fish fillet.
- Pair new with tried-and-true. When introducing a new food, combine it with a familiar “bridge” food your kiddos already like. Young kids may be more willing to try baked fish sticks if they’re accompanied with their favorite dipping sauce. If your child enjoys pizza or mac-and-cheese, add some mild-flavored seafood.
- Get them involved. Research shows that kids are more likely to eat food when they’re a part of the action! Ask them to flip through recipe books to select potential meals. Have them assist with the shopping list and join you at the store. Enlist their aid in the kitchen and explain the steps of each recipe.
- Assign age-appropriate tasks. Young children can help with opening pouched seafood, measuring and mixing. Older kids can marinade, season and plate the seafood. Teenagers can practice their knife and serving skills and might even want to create their own recipes!
- Make it fun! Encourage kids to think creatively about food and make it an immersive experience. Grilled salmon or white fish could be the centerpiece of a build-your-own taco night. Seafood salads, bowls and meal preps are all opportunities for kids to customize dishes to their liking.
- Switch it up. Introduce a variety of seafood to your children. We often recommend beginning with a “starter” fish such as cod or tilapia, but who knows—you may be raising a little salmon or shellfish fan! So, be sure to offer many different kinds of fish and see which species your kids prefer.
- Keep trying! If your children are fickle, remember that taste buds change. Our goal is that today’s picky eaters become tomorrow’s adventurous seafood lovers!
Here are a few of our favorite kid-friendly recipes that your whole family is going to love. Happy eating!
Pizza night gets even easier when you swap in whole wheat naan bread for homemade dough! Little hands can help assemble these easy-bake pies after you sauté the shrimp.
Panko gives these fish sticks a powerful crunch, and the ranch dipping sauce makes them extra-fun! The kiddos can help mix the spice blend and bread the fish sticks, then watch as they magically turn golden-brown in the pan.
Packed with heart-healthy tuna and avocado, this melt is a delicious way for kids to get their omega-3s! What’s more, it’s a 15-minute meal that’s simple enough for older kids to prepare on their own.