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Traditional Super Foods for Babies and Toddlers: Fish (With Recipes)

Updated on March 24, 2020
Emily L Snelling profile image

Emily is a clinical herbalist and all-around health nut. She loves gardening and cooking nutritious meals for her family.

Quality, unpolluted fish is a true super food.
Quality, unpolluted fish is a true super food.

Fish Can Be Safe and Healthy for Baby

Low-mercury fish, especially those that are oily, are perhaps nature's perfect brain food. Loaded with protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, fish varieties like wild Alaskan salmon, sole, sardines and anchovies are excellent choices for your baby or toddler (and you too!).

Omega-3s are essential for proper nervous and cardiovascular system function. They also help reduce inflammation throughout the body. They have been proven to benefit everything from mood to seasonal allergies.

Many of us were educated to stay away from too much fish while pregnant because of the mercury and PCB content. This can make us nervous about feeding fish to our babies.

It's true that large fish such as ahi and albacore tuna and swordfish are loaded with toxins and, at least in my opinion, should stay off your child's plate. But there are many varieties that are safe either because they come from unpolluted waters or because of their small size.

While fish is not usually chosen as a first food, it is a nutritious addition once baby has gotten the hang of eating solids.

Some people are allergic to fish, so introduce slowly and discontinue if you note anything unusual. If your baby has preexisting food allergies or if you have any concerns, you should talk to your child's pediatrician.

Fish Recipes for the Whole Family

Here are some tasty fish dishes that the whole family can enjoy with the help of a food grinder for baby. My family enjoys these recipes on a regular basis. Sharing in family meals versus subsisting on bland baby food helps to build a well-rounded palate.

Fish Stew

1 medium onion

3 cloves garlic

1 bulb fennel, roughly chopped

Equal amount of chopped waxy potatoes

Fish or vegetable broth to cover

1 cup tomato sauce or chopped fresh or canned tomatoes

1/2 tsp well crushed fennel seeds or to taste (we are big fennel fans, you might want less)

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1/4 tsp dried thyme

salt and pepper to taste

1 lb. white fish (we use cod or sole), rinsed and checked for bones

2 tbsp chopped fennel fronds (more for garnish if desired)

Saute onion in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add fennel, potato, wine, stock or water, tomato sauce or tomatoes, fennel seed, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender. Add fish and fennel fronds. Simmer gently for 5 minutes or until fish is cooked through. Break up the fish into bite-sized chunks. Taste test for seasoning. Add any extra fennel fronds for garnish.

Run baby's portion through a baby food grinder (or puree with a blender for a smoother consistency. For older babies, just mash vegetables and fish and serve broth separately by the spoonful.

Grilled Salmon

Rinse salmon fillets (skin on) and remove any bones. Coat salmon in a natural teriaki sauce. Grill, skin side down, over medium heat, basting occasionally with the sauce. That's it! When it's cooked to your liking, grind or flake the fish, check again for bones, and serve to your little one.

We like to grill vegetables at the same time as the fish. Favorites are asparagus spears and zucchini or eggplant strips. Just toss with oil, salt and herbs.

Fish in Brown Butter

Sole fillets

Flour (wheat or almond)

Salt and pepper

Butter (preferably pastured and organic)

Lemon wedges

Rinse fish and check for bones. Pat dry. Dredge in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Shake off excess flour. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Carefully brown the butter, adjusting heat as necessary. When golden brown, add fish. Saute 1 minute per side, adjusting time for thickness. Remove fish and drizzle with brown butter from the pan and a light squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Taste test for seasoning.

To serve to older babies, flake the fish and consider omitting lemon if the tummy is sensitive. For babies, puree with a hand-held stick blender or use a baby food grinder at the table.

Seafood Snacks for Little Ones

Sardines Packed in Olive Oil or Water

My husband and my daughter indulge in this stinky snack on a regular basis. "Is this my child?," I wonder, as I watch my baby enthusiastically sign for more, more, more. I can't even be in the same room with them once the can is opened--I think sardines are revolting--but hey, more power to them! Sardines are positively loaded with healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and, because of their small size, are very low in toxins like mercury.

When selecting sardines, make sure that they are packed with olive oil or water. I recommend Vital Choice, with it's reputation for the highest quality seafood and products low in heavy metals.

When feeding sardines to baby, always check for bones and make sure pieces are mashed or appropriately sized for her eating abilities.

Fish Roe

These are little balls of pure fun for bigger babies who are ready for finger foods. You can splurge on luxury Russian caviar if you like, but any of the larger fish eggs will do. You can also get small eggs, such as those used to decorate sushi, and feed by the spoonful. Like sardines, these strong-tasting eggs are a great way to build baby's well-rounded palate.

A Word on Supplements

A source of Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and vitamin A, cod liver oil is best taken by mom and passed to baby through breast milk. After weaning, you can give toddlers very small amounts after checking with your child's pediatrician. Because vitamins A and D are not water-soluble, and dosing is hard to control, cod liver oil is not recommended for babies. Please visit the Weston A. Price Foundation's website for more information about giving cod liver oil to young children and always check with your pediatrician before proceeding with supplements of any kind.

Does your baby or toddler like fish? Let us know in the comments section below. And please share your ideas for introducing this super food to little ones.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Emily L Snelling


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