We can all agree — kids can be very picky when it comes to what’s served to them. If the food’s flavor, texture, and smell aren’t tailored to their preference (and if it’s not presented in a kid-friendly, eye-candy manner), they’re not going to eat fish. Next to vegetables, fish is another nutritious food they don’t put into their list of favorites.
Since fish is packed with nutrients your child needs for development, tolerating this “I’m not gonna eat that” behavior isn’t an option. To lure your little picky eater to loving fish, here are 9 surefire tricks you should try.
1. Go with fish variants with milder flavors
The best seafood options for beginners, like your picky kiddos, are the ones that are mild in flavor. Think about white fish like halibut, cod, trout, and cream dory. As for shellfish options, go for shrimp and crab meats.
2. Please the eyes
Kids are lured by the appearance of food. If it looks vivid and fun, they’re going to try it — even if it’s just a plate of mashed potatoes and heart-shaped nuggets.
Boost the visual appeal and get extra creative with your presentation. You may skewer your fish on sticks or make interesting shapes out of them. You can also garnish their plates with vegetables like carrots, peas, and peppers to put vivid colors into their plate. Lastly, you may draw on their plate using mayo, catsup, mustard, and other sauces.
3. Give it some crunch
Kids love crispy chicken tenders, so why not try the trick using some help from the sea? Forget the store-bought fish fingers or fish sticks, which can be full of unhealthy ingredients. You can easily make breaded fish fillet at home.
Cod and halibut are perfect for this dish. You may also try calamari and tempura. Cut fish into strips then coat it in an egg wash and breadcrumbs, cornflakes, or oat flakes for a crunchy exterior. Don’t forget to pair them with a delicious dipping sauce. Aside from tomato catsup and ranch, you can create Greek yogurt dip or honey mustard dip for a healthier alternative.
While deep-fried options are always kid-approved, try to introduce your kids to baked, poached, and grilled seafood options to reap health benefits.
4. Try making fish patties
The next time your little one asks for a tasty burger, swap pork, and beef for fish. Fish can be flaked and combined with mashed potatoes, along with egg and breadcrumbs. You may also use Parmesan cheese for a flavor boost.
5. Prepare something sweet
Generally, kids love sweet foods. Cook your fish with Asian-style sweet and sour sauce, teriyaki sauce, and honey garlic dipping. You can also use fruits like pineapples, lemon, and orange to get that sweet and tangy flavor kid to approve of.
6. Experiment with various sauces
Kids would love to have some delicious sauces to go with their dishes. Name it — honey mustard, barbecue, ranch, catsup, salsas, butter garlic, cheese sauce, garlic Parmesan, Caesar dressing, a thousand island — everything. Remember, the goal is to persuade your child to eat fish, not to turn them into a purist.
7. Put a healthier spin into their favorite meals
Do they love tacos? Perhaps a serving of fish tacos will make a good alternative. Do they like curry? Why not swap beef and chicken for fish? Are they a fan of Italian food? You may go with creamy tuna Alfredo, seafood marinara, and other pasta dishes made with seafood.
You don’t have to think of a new dish — just try incorporating fish and shellfish into the meals they love and are familiar with. Who knows? Your new take on their beloved dishes might become their new favorite.
8. Let them play chef for the day
Ready those cute aprons and mini chef hats — it’s time to encourage them to participate in the cooking process. Kids will appreciate their food more if they see how it’s done, from fresh seafood delivery to the pan. They’re even more likely to eat something they create.
Ask them to read the recipe. Let them help in breaking the fish into chunks before cooking. Assist them in safely placing fish in the oven. Let them watch how prawns change color, from gray to orange.
9. It’s all about consistency
Feeding them fish once or twice a week allows them to familiarize themselves with its taste, texture, and smell. The more familiar your little one is with their food, the more likely they’re to eat it.
Be patient. If your kid didn’t like fish in their first try, go with a different approach – perhaps a different fish or a different dish – and so on.
According to Kristin Koskinen, RDN, LD, CD, the goal is to nourish the child now and develop a palate for healthy foods in the future. Of course, you can’t sneak fish into their meals forever and pretend it wasn’t there. Eventually, you should introduce fish, not only as an alternative to chicken but as a healthy source of protein and other essential nutrients.