One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. Toddlers just love the silly rhyming words in this Dr. Seuss classic. But guess what? Fish can be just as entertaining on the plate as on the page — and you don’t always have to resort to fish fingers.
If you’re constantly hunting for something to serve your toddler other than the same old macaroni cheese, spaghetti, and toasted cheese sandwiches, do a little fishing at your supermarket fish counter or local fish market.
There are many good reasons to add healthy fish to your toddler’s plate. Fish is low in saturated fat and high in protein, vitamin D, and many of the B vitamins. What’s more, fatty fish (like salmon and mackerel) is chock-full of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which boost brainpower. Eating fish regularly can also reduce your chance of having a fatal heart attack by 25 per cent or more, says the Heart Foundation of Australia. About 75grams of fish is ideal for children up to 6 years of age. This is approximately 3 fish fingers.
But even with the amazing benefits of fish, it’s important to select fish wisely. Contaminants, like mercury and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), which can affect the brain and cause learning and behaviour problems, lurk in many fish and shellfish. Mercury is found in small quantities in seawater but it accumulates in fish at the top of the food chain
So what’s off the menu? According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fish that contain higher levels of mercury, that you should never serve your child (or eat yourself if you’re pregnant) are these…
- Shark (flake)
- Southern Blue Fin Tuna
- Orange Roughy
What fish can you eat? There are plenty of healthy fish in the sea. Some of the fish that are considered safest for young children to eat are these…
Safe seafood choices:
- King George Whiting
- Salmon and ocean trout (red, pink; fillets or canned)
- Canned chunk-light tuna (which comes from smaller skipjack tuna and therefore has considerably less mercury than albacore)
- Farmed bay scallops (keep in mind that many people are allergic to shellfish, so if allergies run in your family, talk with your paediatrician about whether you should skip shellfish altogether)
- Farmed blue mussels
- Farmed crayfish
- Octopus and calamari
Your method of prepping your fishy feast can also help eliminate toxins. For instance, contaminants collect in the skin and fat on the fish, so if you trim away those areas before you cook, you’ll ditch many of the toxins. Grilling, barbequing, or baking fish further reduces fat and contaminants. Try not to crumb and fry — that just adds fat and calories.
If your little one is enjoying seafood, aim to serve a variety of healthy fish two to three times a week, if you can get your toddler on board with that. Buon Appetito!