Seafood doesn’t have to hit a roadblock with picky eaters.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said it loud and clear: America’s children are not eating enough fish. Whether that’s due to concern over mercury, the sometimes prohibitive cost of seafood, or simply not knowing how to prepare fish so that kids will want to eat it, our national avoidance comes at a cost.
What pediatricians want you to know is that fish is a nutrient powerhouse and very safe when consumed appropriately. Avoiding it means forfeiting key vitamins and omega-3s — all of which contribute to the ongoing health and function of a growing body’s systems. With the right fish and especially the right recipe, introducing fish into your kid’s diet shouldn’t be a chore. It can represent a fun, new eating adventure for your entire family — parents and kids alike.
Read our guide to the nutritional properties of fish and the FDA’s guide to safe fish consumption. As always, be sure to consult your pediatrician before making any major changes to your children’s diet or lifestyle.
1. For the picky eater
There’s a way to accommodate picky-eaters without resorting to dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, and this recipe is it. Complete with potato wedges and green beans, this healthy take on fish and chips will check all the right boxes: its flavors are mild but never bland, its textures varied but never overwhelming, and a dijon remoulade serves as a gentle, low-stakes nudge in a more adventurous direction. If they like it, a small victory. If they hate it, no need to start from scratch. This may be kid food, but it’s definitely not kid exclusive.
2. For the adventurous eater
Pasta is about the most kid-friendly meal there is, but save this flavor-packed shrimp linguine for the ones a bit more accustomed to spice. Remember that you can always adjust the spiciness of the dish according to your (and your kid’s) preference — the dish will be delicious no matter what.
3. For movie night
There is perhaps no better test of parental sacrifice than movie night. But worry not: for those resigned to yet another rerun, there’s a silver lining. These fish taco nachos are easy to throw together on a cozy night in and so universally appealing that we can’t imagine them prompting any fuss. So next time you’re settling in for that Frozen sequel, it doesn’t matter if you know all the lines by heart — every bite of this dish is a revelation.
4. For the one who loves to help in the kitchen
The best (and safest) way for kids to help in the kitchen is assembly, and these crowd-pleasing cod tostadas are the way to go. Get a factory line going for toppings, or have a make-your-own-tostada party. It’s an easy, no-heat, and low-stakes way for kids of all ages to participate come meal time. For the developing little chef at home, a good beginner kitchen set can teach knife skills. And if the kids are older and have a little more patience, try these spicy-salmon temaki (hand-rolls).
5. For when you want to get messy
Anyone in any proximity to children must accept the relentless entropy of mess. There’s no way around it, so lean into the chaos and make these fun, finger-licking peel-and-eat shrimp. You can always remove the shells before cooking for a cleaner eating experience, but half the fun of these Spanish-style shrimp is licking off the butter, garlic, and lemon they cook in. We think your kids will agree.
6. For the one home sick from school
A sick child (or adult for that matter) is never easy, but sharing a delicious, healing meal in mom’s comfy bed might make it bearable. Congee is just that meal: thick, warm, and soothing, it’s perfect for whatever needs fixing. It’s infinitely riffable, but on sick days, we like ours topped with immune-boosting, sinus-clearing aromatics like garlic, ginger, and scallion. This version uses salmon, but the blessing of congee is that you can change it up however you like — including for sensitive tummies. Move over, chicken soup.
7. For the one learning how to use chopsticks
There’s no hard and fast rule about when to use them, but much like learning to drive, using chopsticks with some competency is an American rite of passage — you can even DIY these foolproof kiddie chopsticks for practice! A delicious homage to the famous Nobu restaurant in New York, this sablefish flakes into easy-to-grab pieces and is a perfect test-run for the new user. That way, when you finally manage to score a much-coveted reservation, you won’t have to ask for a fork.
8. For after clean up
At the end of a long day, taking care of cooking and kitchen cleanup is a heavy lift. Making sure kids pitch in lessens the burden on adults and teaches an essential lesson about shared responsibility. We can imagine no better reward for a good attitude and a job well done than these brown butter chocolate chip cookies. The dough will keep in the freezer for months, so assemble them on a lazy Sunday and bake as desired for fresh cookies. Yes, even on a weekday.
Need more ideas? Satisfy those picky eaters with these delicious fish toppers.