What Fish Should You Feed Your Family?
Fish can be a tough sell in some families. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that Americans only eat about half as much fish as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend.
But don't forget about fish (and shellfish) when you're picking powerful protein foods to serve up to your family!
Seafood (which includes fish and shellfish) is a nutritional powerhouse. It provides protein, omega-3 fatty acids that help with brain development and lots of other vitamins and minerals, without the high saturated fat content found in many other animal foods.
Which Fish Are Safe to Eat?
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently revised their recommendations about eating fish.
Because all fish can contain small amounts of mercury, there's some reason to be concerned if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or feeding fish to babies and small children. The guidelines split up 62 different types of fish as being in one of three categories:
- "Best choices" (eat 2-3 servings per week)
- "Good choices" (eat 1 serving per week)
- "Fish to avoid"
A serving is approximately 4 ounces, and the guidelines recommend 2-3 servings of lower-mercury fish per week (for a total of 8-12 ounces per week). For babies the guidelines say the servings should be smaller and adjusted for age and calorie needs.
You can download the full fact sheet here, but here's a quick rundown of some favorite fish to feed and those to avoid:
Lower mercury choices
- canned light tuna
Fish to Avoid
- tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico
- orange roughy
- bigeye tuna
- king mackerel
Fish as a First Food?
Babies can start eating solid foods at around 6-months. And there's no reason why fish can't be one of the first foods offered!
Although fish can cause food allergy, there is no evidence that delaying introduction of fish will help prevent allergy. In fact, a growing body of research supports the notion that earlier introduction of potentially allergenic foods might actually help prevent against food allergy.
Another fun fact about fish allergy: about 40% of people reporting fish allergy had their first reaction as an adult.
But back to babies...fish makes a great starter food because it is soft, flaky and packs a ton of nutrition in each bite.
Some ideas for offering your baby fish include:
- Broiled salmon seasoned with lemon juice
- Crab cakes made with whole wheat breadcrumbs
- Homemade fish sticks made with catfish, pollock, tilapia, catfish or flounder
- Sardines (look for lower salt options)
- Tuna salad mashed with avocado (choose chunk light over albacore tuna)
Breaded Fish Taco Recipe
Here's one of my family's favorite recipes. I love this recipe because everyone from the big folks on down to the babies can enjoy home-made fish tacos together. You can use frozen fish fillets or whatever you might have on hand that's fresh.
For the fish:
- 1 pound flaky white fish like tilapia or flounder
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- Oil for frying
For the sauce:
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup salsa
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
For the tacos:
- Corn tortillas
- Shredded cabbage (omit raw cabbage for babies)
- Lime wedges for seasoning
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, paprika and black pepper. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs. Dredge strips of fish first in egg, then in cornmeal mixture and set aside on plate.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat with enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. When oil begins to shimmer, add breaded fish and fry on each side until golden-brown, about 3-5 minutes. Remove and hold fish on a clean plate lined with paper towels. Repeat in batches until all fish is fried.
- To make the sauce combine sour cream, salsa and lime juice. Serve breaded fish on top of warmed tortillas topped with shredded cabbage and sauce with additional lime juice to taste.