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Kids and Fish: How to get started…

Good nutrition is essential for healthy babies and children.  The WHO recommends breast feeding as the best nutrition for babies for at least the first six months of life.  At this stage, babies are ready to start trying new foods and are ready for weaning.  Offering babies lots of different foods at this stage is a great way to get them ready for a healthy balanced diet as they get older.  Babies have different nutrition needs to adults.  For example they need more fat in their diet than adults so it is great to talk to your public health nurse or dietitian about the specific nutrition needs of your baby.

Babies who are weaning as well as older children need a wide variety of foods for a healthy balanced diet. Fish is a great, nutritious food for babies and children this doesn’t matter if your child simply refuses to eat it. We look at ways to encourage your little one to try, and even eventually love, this wonderful food.​

The trick with fish – as with any food - is to keep trying. For most children, fish is a food with which they are just not familiar. The earlier you start a child eating fish (or any food, even vegetables…) the sooner you will turn your child into a fish lover. Babies can try fish as soon as they start weaning and then you can go from there. Remember it takes a few tries for a baby or child to like a new food so don’t give up if it looks like they hate it the first time. At the start, you are just getting them used to the feel of the fish. You can worry about flavours later on.

It is worth remembering that most children will refuse foods at some stage – usually between the ages of two and three - but the fact that they refused fish at this age doesn’t mean that they will never like it. Like most foods, the earlier after weaning that the child tastes the food the more likely they are to be happy about eating it. One reason children may refuse fish is that they are just not used to it – parents who don’t like fish themselves may never have offered it to their children and it can be a whole new experience. When babies start weaning, they often need time to get used to the new food. Older children can also need time to get used to the new tastes and textures of fish and it may take several attempts before they will be comfortable about eating the new food.

If your child refuses fish…

  • Do offer fish at least once a week. It can take time for children (and adults) to get used to the new taste and texture of any new food and this includes fish. As they get more familiar with how fish feels in their mouth, they will start to be more comfortable eating it. Do be patient. Start with very small amounts of fish - even a mouthful with a meal (maybe offer it as a starter) and gradually work up. It generally takes about 10-16 ‘goes’ of trying a new food to become comfortable with it, so take your time.
  • Do start with white fish like whiting and haddock which have a milder flavour. As your child gets used to the fish you can add in new varieties and start introducing the stronger tasting oil-rich fish like salmon and mackerel.
  • Don’t force children to eat fish – this usually puts them off. Do encourage them to try even one small taste each time you serve fish and let them eat more if they want to.
  • Do eat fish yourself. Most children will copy what they see their parents doing – if they see you eating (and enjoying) fish, they are more likely to try it themselves.
  • Do offer fish to children as early as possible. Fish is an ideal food for weaning as it is a good source of protein and other nutrients but take care to remove all the bones, especially the small, fine bones.
  • Do get older children involved in cooking and preparing meals with fish – many children are willing to eat anything they have made themselves.
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