Fish is without a doubt one of the most nutritious foods you can offer to your toddler. It is rich in several key nutrients such as protein, iron, iodine and zinc and oily fish has the added benefit of healthy fats (Omega-3) and vitamin D. It is also low in saturated fat and in cholesterol. Oily fish include salmon, herring, trout, mackerel, sardines and tuna.
How often should I include fish in my toddler’s diet?
You should try to include fish in your toddler’s diet (and your own) twice per week with oily fish at least once per week and twice if possible. A portion size for 1-3 year olds would be about 45g.
What are the benefits of oily fish for my toddler’s health?
The Omega-3 fatty acid called DHA which is found in oily fish has been found to support normal brain development and is important for healthy vision. The brain develops the most in the first 3 years of life and DHA is a major structural lipid in the brain so making sure that they are getting enough during this critical phase is very important.
Oily fish is one of the few dietary sources of vitamin D. We know from recent research in Ireland that over 90% of toddlers aged 1-3 are not reaching their recommended daily amount of vitamin D so making a conscious effort to include vitamin D in their diet is essential. Vitamin D is important for healthy bones and for healthy teeth. Other sources of vitamin D include eggs and fortified milks such as growing up milks.
Protein is important for healthy muscle growth and healthy bones. Toddlers need 2 portions of protein foods per day.
Certain fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines are a good source of iodine which is important for healthy growth of children and supports normal brain development.
What if my toddler won’t eat fish?
Well we know that fish can be quite strong tasting and a very unique taste and texture and some toddlers and children will have an aversion to it. If your toddler is not a fan of fish here are a few things to bear in mind:
- Just because they refused fish when they were younger doesn’t mean that they won’t like it now. Tastes are constantly changing and it can take up to 10 times before they will accept some new foods.
- Give it time! It takes time for children and adults to get used to new tastes and textures of different fish so try to offer fish twice per week with oily fish at least once per week.
- Children learn by copying others! Try to eat fish yourself and serve it up as a family meal. If you are not a fan of fish, try different varieties and different cooking methods so that you might find one you like yourself.
- Start off with quite mild tasting fish such as cod or haddock and once they have gotten used to these, move on to the stronger tasting oil rich fish such as salmon.
- Try serving fish cakes or fish pie which has a mixture of mild tasting fish and a stronger tasting fish. The use of potato and other herbs, lemon or sauces will help to mask the taste while you are still getting all the goodness. Once your little one has gotten used to this then try the fish again on its own.
- Try not to force them to eat it as this may put them off further. Try to encourage them to even try just one small taste each time you make it. Repeated exposure will allow them to then be more accepting of it.
- Get your toddler involved in meal preparation — they will be more likely to try something they have helped make. For example make homemade fish nuggets or fish fingers and allow them to dip the fish in the egg and then roll in the breadcrumbs.
Try some of these tasty fish recipes suitable for all the family. Always remember to remove any bones before offering fish to your toddler.