As a dietitian who works with families with picky eaters, I frequently hear the long list of vegetables, textures or flavors disliked by kids. But the one food that tops the list for adults and kids alike is seafood.
Regardless of whether or not you like seafood, most of us aren’t eating enough of it.
The Dietary Guidelines recommend adults eat at least two meals containing seafood per week (or eight ounces per week). Most of us average less than three ounces per week of seafood.
The reason for the low intake? It’s partly because we simply aren’t familiar with it or know all the different types of seafood available to try. Being in the Midwest, certain fish just aren’t readily available year-round or can be intimidating to try — I’m looking at you, shellfish.
Even if you’ve ruled out all seafood, it’s a pretty diverse category and there may be some types or preparation methods you haven’t tried yet. So, we know we need to increase our consumption and there’s a reason why dietitians are encouraging folks to give it another try.
There are several essential nutrients in seafood (such as choline, selenium, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, and iron) with the standout nutrient being Omega-3 fats. It’s not found in high amounts in many other foods, making it all the more important to give fish a try.
The Omega-3 fatty acids found in most fish, specifically EPA and DHA, have been shown to have a big impact on long-term health. These healthy fats have a significant role in brain function, eye health, and heart health. It is essential for developing kids’ brains and nervous systems and it may help reduce cognitive decline in aging adults.
The main hurdle still remains: how to incorporate seafood into your meals in a way that works for you and your family? Here are some ideas that may help.
If you’re currently not a big fish-eater, start mild. Cod, tilapia, and salmon are all milder in taste. Your family may be more on board for trying one of these fish when it’s used in a familiar dish already, such as tacos or mac and cheese.
Fish can get pricey, especially when it’s not in season, but don’t let that deter you from getting your weekly intake of fish! Keep it budget friendly by using canned tuna or salmon, which is often less expensive than fresh. This takes away the prep work and is a fast way to add protein into your pastas, salads, or on sandwiches.
When out to eat, choose a new seafood entree or appetizer for the entire table to try and share. It’ll give you an idea of what that type of fish tastes like and how you could prepare the fish at home later, if you discover you like it.
Try out new seafood recipes with familiar flavors or use familiar recipes but swap out the protein. For example, taco seasoning, soy sauce and ginger, barbecue rubs, or lemon pepper are familiar flavors you can add to fish. Or swap out a familiar protein for seafood — add clams or shrimp to your favorite spaghetti or alfredo sauce, use cod instead of chicken in a curry dish, or create a burger using tuna or salmon.
If getting enough fish in your week sounds daunting, think outside of dinner. Try adding smoked salmon to a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast, add canned fish to your scrambled eggs, make a frittata or quiche using crab meat, or have a packet of tuna with crackers for a snack. Just don’t forget the breath mint!
Here in Wisconsin, a Friday fish fry is a great place to start. From there, challenge yourself to add another serving of seafood throughout the week.
Be adventurous—you may be surprised what seafood you like!