If you’ve tried to feed your kids fish, chances are their reactions—yuck! and gross!—and the mealtime battle that ensued was enough of a reason to never offer it again.
There’s no getting around that fish is right up there with other offensive foods like Brussels sprouts and beans, but if you can get your kids to take a few bites, they’ll get a ton of nutrition into their diets.
Packed with protein, low in saturated fat, and rich in micronutrients, perhaps the biggest benefit of eating fish are the omega-3 fatty acids which support kids’ brain health and memory.
According to a December 2017 study out of the University of Pennsylvania, kids who eat seafood at least once a week have higher IQ scores—4 points higher on average—than kids who eat fish less frequently or not at all.
Studies also show that omega-3’s may prevent anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses.
In fact, an October 2011 study in the Journal of the American Academy and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids has a small, but significant, effect on improving attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms.
Of course, there’s always the concern of mercury in fish, which types of fish are safe for kids and how many servings are best.
Before introducing fish and shellfish to your child, be sure to check in with your pediatrician because of the risk of food allergies.
Although all types of fish are packed with nutrition, there are some that you might consider focusing on.
These 5 healthy types of fish for kids are high in vitamins and minerals, excellent sources of protein and healthy fats and low in mercury.
1. Tuna fish
Thanks to its mild flavor and aroma, tuna is perhaps one of the easiest types of fish to get your kid to eat.
Tuna is an excellent source of protein: an ounce has more than 8 grams. Tuna fish is also a good source of vitamin B12, phosphorus, niacin and selenium.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), canned light tuna (solid or chunk, including skipjack) is a “best choice” for kids.
White albacore and yellow fish are both considered a “good” choice, but because they’re higher in mercury, stick to one serving a week.
Serve tuna in a sandwich, lettuce wrap or in a green salad.
To get dinner on the table almost every night, I tend to stick to the basics and serve many of the same meals.
Since it’s so easy and fast, salmon has become my go-to meal on Monday when we’re off to the races of a busy week.
Salmon is an excellent source of protein and a good source of niacin, vitamins B6 and B12 and selenium.
It’s also versatile enough to serve at any meal, not only dinner. Serve leftover salmon on toast for breakfast or make an omelet. Canned salmon also works well in a sandwich or a lettuce wrap for lunch.
My kids love anchovies as much as I do and actually fight over who gets more when we crack open a can.
Although anchovies are definitely a type of food anyone—including adults—either love or hate, they’re one of the healthiest types of fish for kids.
A good source of protein, anchovies are also rich in iron, niacin, selenium, magnesium and phosphorus.
An ounce of anchovies provide 7 percent of the daily value for calcium, which helps build strong, healthy bones and teeth.
Since they can be an acquired taste and are high in sodium, try adding small amounts to pizza, pasta and rice dishes, and chopped salads.
Sardines are another type of fish my kids started to eat regularly after they saw me eating them and asked to have a taste.
A good source of protein, calcium, vitamins B12 and D, phosphorus and selenium, sardines are less pungent that anchovies but still packed with plenty of nutrition.
Fresh or canned, you can grill or sauté sardines, add a small amount of mayonnaise just like you would with tuna fish or add them to pasta and rice dishes.
With a mild and slightly sweet flavor and soft, buttery texture, scallops are another healthy type of fish that kids may be more likely to try.
Scallops are an excellent source of protein, phosphorus and selenium and a good source of vitamin B12, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and copper. Scallops are also a good source of zinc, which supports a healthy immune system.
Kids like bite-sized foods and since scallops are so small, try serving them as an appetizer or paired with a dipping sauce.