As a parent, you probably have run into the phase of or are still struggling through the difficulty of getting a picky eater to eat. Fish can be especially tricky if you’ve got a picky eater that has issues with the look of a certain type of food, or even texture or sensations of certain foods and of course, there’s the smell to contend with. Sometimes it feels like you really must jump through several obstacle courses just to get your little one to take a bite. Fish is an amazing source of protein, vitamins A, B, D, Iodine, Iron, and Omega-3 fatty acids which are important for brain development. But kids generally aren’t impressed with the science behind fish, they’re more invested in the taste and look.
So, how can we encourage them to eat healthy and enjoy healthy food, especially fish? How can we make it a stress-free, enjoyable meal once again around the table? We’ll help you create a fish dish for kids that they’ll love so much they’ll be asking for more! Don’t say goodbye to seafood, welcome it back with fresh new ideas that your kid will enjoy (and maybe you will, too!)
Change the Crumb
Try swapping out the standard bread crumb to panko breadcrumbs when it comes to healthy fish sticks or baked fish. A dash of Old Bay seasoning brightens it all up and adds a bit of flavor to the fish. Panko breadcrumbs are lower in calories, fat, and sodium than your average breadcrumb and, since the flakes are larger, they add a more interesting looking texture and noticeable crunchiness to fish. A plus for those little ones who don’t like soft or complain of ‘soggy,’ fish!
Fun Finger Food
Listen, there’s something fun about being able to pick up bite-sized pieces of food and enjoy it at your own speed, whether you’re a kid or kid at heart. Consider trying to make fish into bite sized pieces or nuggets. Fry them up in sunflower or your choice of low-fat oil for crunchy-fun-finger-food that will be tasty and entertaining enough, allowing your little one to explore flavors on their own.
If your little one is a big fan of burritos, tacos and more, feel free to create Mexican inspired food with fish! Salmon is fantastic in a baked bean burrito. Turn that into a burrito bowl by simply placing the baked burrito in a bowl of Spanish style rice. Baking or cooking fish with Mexican inspired flavoring can cover the taste and smell of fish that your kids may have the biggest complaint with. Also, you and they get all the health perks and delicious food at the same time!
Don’t forget crispy, mouthwatering fish tacos and tostadas! Nourishing with southwestern spiced pieces of fish and toppings of choice can make a super easy dinner in a pinch!
Build Their Own
Letting your kids build their own meals, like tacos, burritos, bowls, wraps, or even toppings for fried rice can often tempt them to try foods they may not usually try. Consider adding sweet ingredients, like Hoisin sauce, to the stronger flavored fish like mackerel to entice and mask the fishiness.
Wrap it Up
We love a good piece of salmon, but maybe your kids still won’t eat it? Fish cakes, to the rescue! Mix flaked fish with potatoes, some lemon, spices and a coating of your choice and bake in the oven for healthier crispiness. Get fun with it too! Make shapes of fish or birds or favorite animals for the cakes, or make them into large “finger,” shapes that can be picked up and nibbled at. Mixing in other foods and flavors your kid loves may make them more curious to try more fish.
Keep it Milder
Many fish have different flavor profiles. Some fish have a gamey, very strong flavor, while others are mild or so mild that they hardly have any flavor and work best at picking up the flavors of other items all around it. For the kid that dislikes strong taste and strong smell, consider these types of fish to cook with:
- Arctic Char
- Dover Sol
- Rainbow Trout
- Sea Bass
Switching to a mild fish means milder flavor and less fishy smell all together and may make a huge difference in what your kid will or will not try.
Pair it with Other Flavors
If it’s fish stick night, try a healthy alternative to the usual Tartar sauce for your kid to dip in. If it’s baked, consider creamy or tangy or sweet sauces to place on top of a fish fillet. Pair your fish with an amazing mild curry, a soup, a stew with robust flavors. Try a seafood version of these and they might be just as enjoyable for your kid as it is for you! Homemade salsas such as mango or peach offer a sweet and savory flavor that pairs very well with fish. Go ahead and try crazy dipping sauces of all kinds too to entice your kids into trying it!
If your kid loves burgers or sandwiches, try switching up fish and presenting it as a fish burger or sandwich. You can air fry, bake or use a healthy oil to fry up a fish burger patty or fish fingers for a fun sandwich. Add any topping they like to entice them to try out their delicious sandwich or burger.
Kid-Friendly Dishes to Try:
Crunchy Panko Polenta Fish Fingers
- ¾ lbs cod fillets, cut into 1-inch strips
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1 egg, whisked with ½ cup of water
- 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs
- 1 cup of polenta
- Olive oil for drizzling.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or 180 degrees Celsius.
- Mix panko and polenta together in a bowl.
- Coat the fish in flour—you can use a zip lock bag and shake for super easy coating.
- Dip each strip individually in your egg and water mix and coat in the panko and polenta mix.
- Place each strip on a lined oven tray.
- Drizzle the strips lightly with olive oil and bake until browned, 20-30 minutes.
Parmesan Baked Fish Nuggets
- 8 oz frozen or fresh cod cut into nugget pieces
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/3 grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4th teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- Cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, or 205 Celsius. Cut fish into 1.5 to 2-inch pieces and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels. Set on a dish.
- Spread panko in a thin layer on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes until light brown. Transfer the panko to a shallow dish and mix in the Parmesan cheese and salt. Drizzle the oil, mix well.
- Set out flour and eggs in separate bowls, place a wire rack on the baking sheet and lightly coat with cooking spray.
- In small batches, coat the fish in flour. Shake off excess, dip in egg, and coat well with panko. Transfer to the rack. Bake the fish until desired tenderness, about 15 minutes, turning halfway through. Serve the fish nuggets with a kid-favorite dipping sauce.
With countless of resources out there and these bright, tasty ideas you should be well on your way to introducing fish to your little one that previously wouldn’t go near it. And, perhaps you’ve found a recipe that you love and that’s easy to make, too! We hope you and your family enjoy these fish dishes and ideas for kids.