The benefits of seafood for kids are big! Fish and shellfish supply the nutrients, vitamins, and omega-3s essential for strong bones, brain development, and a healthy heart and immune system. So how do moms get their kids to eat more of this delicious, nutritious food? Seafood Nutrition Partnership (SNP) talked to hundreds of moms and asked top nutrition experts and chefs for their input – all parents with tested-true tips. Here are the ones that, when put into action with real moms as part of SNP’s Little Seafoodies program, seemed to work best.
Here are the top six secrets to getting your kids to eat more seafood:
For younger kids, this can simply be visually appealing, like a sandwich shaped like a fish. The heart of this concept is for there to be an exciting component. Maybe it’s interactive and they can “play” with their food.
“My boys all love wildlife and pretending they’re eagles and bears eating freshly-caught fish!” said Jennifer McQuire, dietitian and mother of three boys.
Fun Ways to Engage your Little Seafoodies: Get kids cooking in the kitchen
“Whenever I meet an adult that doesn’t eat fish, they almost always say, we never had it when I was growing up,” said Ryan Nelson, father, chef, and owner of Indianapolis restaurant Late Harvest Kitchen. One way to get kids eating brain-boosting seafood is to get them involved in the kitchen. Studies have shown that when kids help to prepare the food, they are much more likely to try new eating new things.
“Make it totally fun and different. My eight-year-old helped me cook Fish en Papillote. She added the flavors and items that sounded delicious to her,” said Katy Mann of Indy with Kids.
One of the popular Little Seafoodies taglines fits well under this umbrella, “Stick It On a Stick! Kids with skewers are seafood doers.” This is for slightly older kids, but the act of making the skewers is fun – they can add their favorite fruit and veggies alongside the fish – and then pulling it all off at the table adds another interactive element. Who doesn’t love finger food? Check out this video of dietitian and TV personality Annessa Chumbley and her daughter making fish skewers.
#2: Dipping Means Yumming!
Seafood, the perfect ketchup delivery device! This seems like it would be common sense for most parents who know ketchup, ranch dressing and barbecue sauce are kid favorites, but when we surveyed Indianapolis moms before the start of the Little Seafoodies campaign, it was almost like an “oh yeah” moment. Three-quarters of respondents said dipping sauces would be a good way to get their kids to try seafood.
#3: Do the Seafood Swap!
“Kids love chicken fingers, breaded fish or shrimp is really not that different than chicken,” said Nelson. “Kids love burgers, patty up some shrimp or fish and make burgers.”
“Our kids love tacos and spaghetti…whose kids don’t love those? So sometimes I just substitute beef with shrimp or fish in my tacos and spaghetti sauce,” said Indianapolis mom of two Stephanie Hart. “I find that if you introduce seafood with familiar flavors your kids already love, they’ll eat it with few or no questions. Once they get used to it, then they’re willing to expand and try new things. Now my kids eat oysters and sushi!”
Kids love fruit? Pile it on! Try making an avocado and fruit salsa with mango, pineapple, or even strawberries to top a fillet.
“Serve fish with sauces and toppings that are flavorful and preferred by kids,” suggested Jessica Levinson, mom of twin girls, dietitian and author of 52-Week Meal Planner. “For example, my Orange Maple Salmon goes over swimmingly with kids because of the sweet flavor of maple syrup.”
#5: Add It to a Fave, Watch ’em Rave!
Crab in mac & cheese, please! Tuna on pasta makes it go fasta!
“I got my daughter back on the shrimp lover’s wagon by adding it to her favorite foods like cheese quesadillas and as a topping on homemade pizza (which she makes herself),” said mom and co-founder of Teaspoon of Spice, Deanna Segrave-Daly, RDN.
Adding melty cheese makes it easy to please! Check out this video of dietitian Annessa Chumbley making super simple shrimp pesto pizza.
#6: Our best advice is to keep trying.
“Seafood on the menu doesn’t happen overnight–it’s a series of trial and error. Being willing to ‘try and error’ is what landed a variety of seafood on my kids’ plate today,” said dietitian and mom Robin Plotkin.
“Get rid of preconceived notions about what your kids will like or dislike and offer up seafood in different ways with different flavors,” said dietitian and blogger Jenny Shea Rawn, of My Cape Cod Kitchen
“Another way to successfully integrate seafood into a child’s diet is to offer it on a consistent basis,” Nelson suggests. “It’s easier for a child to say no to something that appears exotic or special. Make it familiar and a regular part of the dinner rotation.”
And we’ll leave you with one last parting idea. Put it on YOUR plate. Kids often model their parents’ behavior, so be a role model by eating the foods you want your child to eat.