Fish and seafood are among the best protein options for toddlers and kids! They’re a good source of protein, omega-3 fats, and they provide tons of vitamins and minerals.
But it’s true that there are some considerations you’ll want to make when first introducing seafood into your toddler’s diet. Things like mercury levels and raw or near-raw seafood (often found in sushi) are all important things to think about when it comes to seafood for toddlers!
So today I’m walking you through when it’s okay to give seafood to your toddler, which seafood is best for toddlers, and which types of seafood you’ll want to avoid until your kids are older.
Let’s dive in! (Sorry! Just had to get one seafood pun in there.)
When can I introduce seafood into my toddler’s diet?
It’s safe to introduce well-cooked fish and shellfish to your children even when they are babies.
That said, if you have a family history of severe seafood allergies, I would discuss it with your pediatrician beforehand. (And actually, this is true for all highly allergenic foods like fish/shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, dairy, eggs, wheat, and soy.)
And, if you didn’t introduce seafood as a baby but you want to, no worries. You can start now!
What’s the best seafood for toddlers?
The Best Seafood for Toddlers to Start With:
- Baked or sauteed salmon
- Boiled or sauteed shrimp (sliced lengthwise)
- Pollock fish sticks (Often less intimidating to toddlers since they look like chicken fingers!)
- Canned tuna (Safe Catch Foods brand), or canned salmon
Tip: Mix canned tuna or salmon with avocado, or try our go-to recipe for canned salmon salad! I call canned salmon the Weekend Special at my house because we pretty much always do Salmon Saturday for lunch. It’s an easy way for me to make sure I get at least one seafood serving in each week.
It’s best to choose low-mercury fish for your toddler, like:
- Tuna (Safe Catch brand because lowest mercury)
Click here for a full list!
How often should my toddler eat seafood?
Serving seafood around 2 or 3 times a week is optimal for your toddler. That’s because seafood is a really good source of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that’s important for brain and eye health.
If you serve seafood much less often than that (think once or twice a month, or less) then you’ll just want to find an alternative source of DHA.
The easiest alternative? DHA fortified milk (I like Horizon Organic).
When can my toddler eat sushi?
When it comes to sushi with raw or undercooked seafood, like sashimi, unfortunately the answer is that your young child shouldn’t have it at all.
The FDA actually advises against young children eating raw or undercooked fish or shellfish, because they have a bigger risk of getting a food borne illness from it than adults do. And, when toddlers do get sick from seafood, they are more likely to have a lengthier illness and to be hospitalized (yikes!).
That said, not all sushi is off the table! Toddlers can still enjoy certain types of sushi when your family orders in. I recommend avoiding sashimi altogether. Instead, opt for vegetarian sushi, or sushi with cooked fish/shellfish instead of raw.
Toddler-Friendly Seafood Recipes
Okay, so now that you’re armed with knowledge about when to introduce what types of seafood, it’s time to get cooking! Here are some of my favorite toddler-friendly seafood recipes. Give them a try, and let me know what you (and your littles) think!
- Easiest Canned Salmon Salad
- Mashed Sardines on Toast – Mash 3 oz no salt added boneless sardines with 1-2 tbsp Greek whole milk plain yogurt and a sprinkle of salt. Spread on a thin piece of toast and cut into pieces.
- Broiled shrimp – Preheat broiler; toss defrosted, tail-off, deveined shrimp with olive oil and sprinkle on some garlic powder and salt. Spread in one layer on a baking sheet; broil for 3 to 5 minutes or until opaque. Squeeze on fresh lemon juice to serve. Slice shrimp lengthwise for toddlers, and cut into small pieces if desired.
- Air Fryer Pesto Salmon – Pat 6 oz salmon filet dry, rub on a little olive oil, lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then top with a thin layer of pesto. Cook in air fryer at 400° F for about 8-10 minutes. (This should be enough to serve 2.)
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