Ask the Expert – Introducing Fish and Seafood to Your Toddler

Ask The Expert is a weekly column on Littlestomaks.com. The idea is to have a reader-submitted question answered by a nutrition expert or a pediatrician. Feel free to submit your question in the comments section below.

Thinking about introducing your little one to fish and other seafood but worried about food allergy? Check out these handy tips from Registered Dietitian Keri Gans!

Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN
  • MS, Clinical Nutrition, New York University
  • Bachelors of Business Administration, Marketing, Ohio University
  • Private Practice in New York City for over ten years specializing in weight management and disordered eating
  • Registered Dietitian, Speaker, Media Spokesperson, Writer
  • Website: Keri Gans Nutrition
  • Twitter: @kerigans
  • LinkedIn profile – Keri Gans
  • Contact: Email kmgans@aol.com

Question: We want to introduce our 2 year old to fish and other seafood. What should we be worried about? Are there any safe seafood we can try first?

Answer:

The good news is that as of January 2008 the American Academy of Pediatrics declared that there is no convincing evidence that delaying any food beyond 4 to 6 months reduces the risk of developing an allergy to it. So even though fish is one of the top eight allergenic foods, no need to worry, it is definitely time for your 2-year old to start enjoying it.

What is important to remember is that fish and shellfish are an important part of a healthy diet. They contain high quality protein and other essential nutrients that are low in saturated fat. The Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish are considered beneficial for cardiovascular health and preliminary research suggest they can enhance brain development and improve learning, behavior and vision. The American Heart Association currently recommends recommending two servings 2-3 ounces of fish a week for children as an early prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Follow these recommendations for your young child:

  1. Do not serve shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.
  2. Ok for your child to eat up to 12 ounces a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish.
  3. Serve no more than 6 ounces of fresh or canned albacore (white) tuna. They have more mercury than light tuna.
    Make sure your fish is thoroughly cooked to avoid food borne bacteria and viruses.
  4. Buy fish from reputable sources.
  5. Introduce only one type of fish at a time.

After introducing any new food in your child’s diet wait 3 days until moving on to another food. Watch for signs of a food allergy, swelling of the tongue, lips or face, skin rash, wheezing, abdominal cramping, vomiting or diarrhea. If symptoms appear call your doctor right away.

Also remember that you are a food role model for you child. If they don’t see you eating fish they will not grow up eating fish. There is also no need to try and disguise the fish, by heavily breading and frying it. Serve it to them just as you would yourself, hopefully that is grilled, broiled or baked.  I remember when my niece was around 3 years old….she loved tilapia, but thought she was eating chicken.

Great resources on seafood:
Environmental Protection Agency
Seafood WATCH
Kid Safe Seafood

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Disclaimer – Information provided in Ask The Expert column on Littlestomaks.com is intended to give you general guidance on a question related to toddler nutrition. It is not meant to be treated as medical advice. You are welcome to contact this expert for a detailed consultation on your specific situation to determine what actions, if any, you should take regarding nutrition and health of your toddlers. We do not recommend you to take any action based solely on the information presented in this column. Experts have agreed to provide their professional opinion on toddler nutrition related questions on a voluntary basis and no compensation is offered to them by Littlestomaks.com.