What Fish Should Kids Eat? Here Are the Best Choices

It’s quite natural to get confused when it comes to kids eating fish. Though being highly nutritious food, you may want to skip fish all together due to it being contaminated by mercury. However, in the case of fish, the risks are outweighed by the benefits and fortunately you can minimize the potential risks associated with fish in multiple easy ways. Read on to know the best fish for kids.

Which Varieties of Fish Are Safe for Kids?

Majority of the fish have some quantity of methylmercury present in them. It is mercury form that if present in large quantities may be toxic to human brain. Big fishes, which have a long life span, tend to accumulate the compound in large amounts; therefore, the FDA recommends avoiding tilefish, swordfish, king mackerel and shark completely in your diet.

However, some other variety of fish contain much smaller quantities of mercury, as little as trace amount in certain cases; hence, they can be consumed safely by small kids and pregnant females. Some seafood and fish which contain lowest quantities of mercury are:

  •  Salmon (Chinook, Atlantic, Pink, Sockeye, Coho)
  •  Pollock (Walleye and Atlantic)
  •  Tilapia
  •  Haddock
  •  Flounder
  •  Clams
  •  Catfish
  •  Shrimp
  •  Oysters (Pacific)
  •  Scallops (Sea and Bay)

How Much of Fish Is Okay?

After discussing best fish for kids, let’s discuss how much of fish is okay for them. According to FDA, to obtain maximum health benefits from fish, kids must consume fish at least two to three times per week; however, their portion size should be smaller in comparison to adults. The appropriate portion size for children is as follows:

  • Kids younger than 6 years: Around three to five ounces in a week
  • Kids between age six to eight: Around four to six ounces in a week
  • Kids age nine and above: Portion size increases as need for calories increases, up to eight to twelve ounces in a week (this is the amount advised for adults).

You should remember that this recommendation is not same for fish caught in streams, lakes and rivers. In such cases, the portion size of fish should be limited to one to two ounces per week for kids younger than 6 years and two to three ounces for kids older than 6 years. Moreover, any other serving of fish should not be given to kids in that week.

What About Tuna?

You now know best fish for kids and its recommended amount, let’s discuss about tuna. Pouch and canned tuna is popular among families as it is affordable and convenient. However, both albacore and light tuna contain higher levels of mercury in comparison to the variety of fish listed above; hence, it’s important that you follow the advice of the FDA. According to them, light tuna has less mercury in comparison to albacore and is safe to consume; however, you must serve your kid other varieties of fish that contain less mercury as well. In case you serve them albacore, then reduce the servings to half of the recommended amount (for instance, not greater than two to three ounces per week for kids aged six to eight years).

Fish That Kids Should Avoid

According to the FDA and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the four big fish which you must never give your kid (or consume yourself in case you are carrying a baby) are the following:

  •  Swordfish
  •  Tilefish
  •  Shark
  •  King mackerel

Now you know the best fish for kids; there are other fish, which many health experts advice to not give to kids as contaminants are also present in them. These are:

  •  Atlantic or farmed salmon
  •  Red snapper
  •  Striped bass (wild)
  •  Orange roughy
  •  Albacore canned tuna and tuna steaks
  •  Atlantic halibut
  •  Grouper
  •  Blue marlin

What If Your Kid Does Not Like Fish?

This is a major problem. How can you persuade a kid who is reluctant to eat or try fish?

You should remember that majority of the kids refuse foods at certain age, usually around age of two to three; however, refusing fish around this age is not an indication that they won’t eat it. Like all foods, if you let the child taste fish earlier post weaning, it is more likely that they like its taste. One of the reason why kids may not eat fish is that it may be a new experience for them. For instance, parents who themselves don’t prefer fish much may not have offered it to their kids. Kids require time to get comfortable and used to the texture and taste of fish. You may have to make several attempts before your kid becomes comfortable and really enjoys eating fish.  

What to Do in Case Your Kid Refuses to Eat Fish

  •  Offer your kid fish at least one time per week. It may take time for kids and even adults to get comfortable and used to the novel texture and taste of fish. As your kid gets familiar with the feeling of fish in their oral cavity, they may start eating it comfortably. Be patient. You should begin with small quantities-offer fish as a mouthful along with lunch or dinner or as starter and increase the quantity gradually. It usually takes around six weeks for a kid to become comfortable with a new food.
  •  Begin with white fish such as haddock and whiting as they have mild flavor. When your kid gets comfortable to the taste of these fish, you may add new variety of fish and introduce oil rich, stronger tasting fish.
  •  Don’t force your kid to consume fish-this may put them off. Let them taste even a small bite every time fish is served and they can eat more in case they like it.
  •  You should yourself eat fish. Majority of the kids copy what their parents do. If they watch you enjoying and eating fish, it is more likely that they themselves will also try it.
  •  Introduce fish to your kid as early as you can. It is an excellent weaning food; however, you should remove all bones particularly, fine and small bones.
  •  Get your older kids involved in preparing and cooking meals containing fish-many kids are likely to eat things they have cooked themselves.
  •  Try different varieties of fish-haddock, cod, trout, salmon, fresh fish and tinned fish, fish baked, steamed or even deep fried (occasionally).