Kids are notoriously picky eaters, and it can be challenging to introduce new food to their diet.
In fact, a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics has found that seafood consumption by American children has been declining since 2007.
It’s easy to see why kids can dislike seafood. Firstly, it is normal for kids to be fussy about food. Some fish have bones and a strong taste and texture, which is different from other foods and may not be what your child is used to.
But, fish and shellfish are essential for an all-around healthy diet.
Seafood is a great source of low-fat protein, essential vitamins, minerals, and omega-3.
A child’s immune system is still developing from infancy, so it’s key your child gets the appropriate nourishment from their diet.
Parents might also be concerned about the levels of mercury found within certain fish and shellfish. But, you shouldn’t be put off. There are plenty of safe seafood choices that, when mixed with a balanced diet, you can’t go wrong.
4 Ways to Get Your Kids into Seafood
We look at some ways to get your kids so excited about seafood that they might even start demanding it at the dinner table!
- Make Seafood Fun
It’s no secret that kids are much more likely to engage with food when presented to them in a fun way.
Try making your seafood dishes visually appealing, like making a tuna sandwich shaped like a fish. Add colorful vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers or create sea creatures out of fish sticks.
Or add a playful element.
For instance, make a “go fish” game out of battered fish dippers, using celery sticks as fishing rods. Encourage your kid to “catch” the fish and eat them as a reward.
- Make It Appealing
Kids are sensitive to strong flavors. So don’t introduce them to powerful tasting fish like anchovies or mackerel too early in life, which could affect their relationship with seafood from an early age.
For the first-timers, go for a milder fish, such as halibut or cod. Try making breaded fish sticks or fish and chips to introduce your kid to seafood.
Fish tacos or wraps are also an option. Marinating white fish in fresh lime juice and adding spices will lessen any “fishy” taste your child might dislike.
A study has shown that kids prefer bitter or strong tasting savory foods when they encounter them in combination with sweet food.
In that case, why not make the flavor more appealing. Kids love sweet flavors, so opt for recipes with a sweet sauce, such as teriyaki or sweet chili. Dense flesh fish like mahi-mahi tastes excellent served with grilled pineapple, and its meaty texture can make it more appetizing to kids.
But don’t worry if you don’t have time to try these recipes. Serving seafood with a variety of dipping options like ketchup, mayo, or even pesto can change your kid’s perspective – especially if they get to choose their favorite sauces to have with their meal.
- Consistency Is Key
An important part of getting your kid enthused about seafood is establishing familiarity. Your child needs to get used to the taste, texture, and smell of seafood before they start liking it. If seafood is rarely served at your dinner table, a child will find it easier to say no.
This means that you should try offering fish once or twice a week at mealtimes. It might be an uphill battle at first, but don’t give up!
Set an example. Kids are known to often copy their parent’s behavior, so make sure that you’re putting seafood on your plate too. Be a role model by eating food that you also want your child to eat.
- Get the Kids Involved
Kids are far more likely to engage with something that they have a hand in creating themselves.
Get them involved in preparing the fish and play chef for the day.
This can be from adding spices and herbs to teaching them to use a crab cracker (depending on their age). Get your kids to wear chef hats and lobster bibs — encourage them to be part of the process.
Try hands-on recipes like DIY sushi or combine the fish with a food they already like, such as mac and cheese, and plan recipes or take them shopping with you. The unknown can be frightening, so educating your child on the journey of ingredients to the plate can open their eyes.
Fish For Kids: A Few Final Thoughts
Don’t be disheartened if your kids don’t take to seafood right away. It is important to be positive. Nurture an enjoyable, social environment where your child can make happy memories eating seafood together.
It’s essential not to force your child to eat seafood, as then they might begin to develop negative associations with it. But also, don’t let your kid snack all day. They should be arriving at meals hungry and therefore more likely to want to eat.
Be patient. It might take some time for your kid to get truly excited about seafood, but with time and consideration, it’s possible to change their outlook.