Seafood Savvy: How to Make Healthy and Delicious Choices for Kids
Many kids’ preferred seafood is the fish stick, nugget, or sandwich—good choices in terms of avoiding pollutants. “Most of the time those are made from a fish called pollock, which are typically caught at a young age and haven’t had time to accumulate a lot of contaminants,” says Fitzgerald. “Of course, if it’s been deep fried, you can debate the overall healthfulness!”
If tuna salad is your family’s sandwich staple, there’s no need to give it up; however, it may be a good idea to cut back. According to Fitzgerald, young children should consume canned light tuna no more than once a week. Canned white or albacore tuna should be eaten no more than once a month, as it comes from a larger species of fish that accumulates higher levels of mercury.
A great alternative to canned tuna is canned salmon, says Fitzgerald. “Price-wise, it’s on par with canned tuna. It’s also lower in mercury, higher in omega-3s, and more environmentally friendly.” Canned salmon is available in boneless and skinless varieties, and Fitzgerald adds that the taste is very similar to tuna when mixed with mayonnaise, spices, and veggies on a sandwich.
Also consider choices that are good for the planet. “Interestingly, many of the foods that are most eco-friendly, such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon, are the least health harmful,” says Fitzgerald. For an easy way to make choices that benefit your family and the oceans, download and print the pocket seafood guide offered by the Environmental Defense.
Another important seafood safety issue is when to introduce the food into your child’s diet. Colleen Bearding’s son didn’t have his first taste of seafood until he was around two years old. “I have allergies, although none to fish, so I was advised to delay certain foods until he was two,” says Bearding, of St Louis, Missouri. Bearding started with cod and gradually introduced shellfish. Her son is now three and is allergy free.
Many doctors advise parents to wait even longer before introducing seafood. Dr. Stephen J. McGeady, MD, division chief of allergy, asthma, and immunology at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children recommends that parents wait until around three years before introducing seafood, especially if there is a family history of allergies. While allergies to crustaceans, fish, and shellfish aren’t as common in kids as they are in adults, they can occur—and sadly, allergies to seafood are rarely outgrown.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction to fish will occur quickly and be very dramatic—they can include vomiting, hives, swelling, and shortness of breath, explains Dr. McGeady.
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