Fish is one of the best first foods for babies starting solids with a baby led weaning approach. Learn why fish is so important for babies and how to serve it as a finger food!
Fish is continuing to be recognized as an important food for Americans to include in our diets. It's recommended to eat 2 servings of seafood per week for both adults and kids. Luckily, if you're using a baby led weaning approach, increasing the amount of seafood in your diet will also mean increasing it in baby's diet, and vice-versa. Here's why fish is one of the most perfect first foods for babies.
Why Fish Is a Great First Food For Babies
Fish and other seafood is loaded with essential nutrients that babies need. It's also naturally a soft texture when cooked, making it easy for babies to eat without much modification, if any. And it's also a potential allergen, so it's important to expose babies early (more on that in a moment).
Essential Nutrients in Fish and Seafood
Seafood is the only food rich in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. DHA is super important for babies' brain development, as well as for their eyes. Seafood is also a source of protein, iron, vitamins B12 and D, and minerals like selenium, zinc and iodine. Fish is really an excellent, nutrient-dense food for babies!
While most of the research on early allergen exposure is focused on peanuts and eggs, the general consensus among health professionals is now to expose infants to all potentially allergenic foods early (around 6 months) and often. Doing so is thought to lower the risk of baby developing a food allergy to those foods. Fish and shellfish are both potential food allergens, so it's important to include them in baby's diet from the very beginning.
What About Mercury?
The benefits of consuming seafood far outweigh the risks of mercury contamination from seafood. However, for young children (and pregnant women), it's best to avoid the types of seafood that may be higher in mercury: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, bigeye tuna (that's not the canned kind), marlin, and orange roughy. So more common types of seafood like salmon, cod, shrimp, halibut, canned tuna, tilapia, and crab are all safe!
How To Serve Fish and Seafood to Babies
Here are some ideas for safely serving seafood to babies if you're using a baby led weaning approach:
- Any fish cooked for the family, cut into finger-sized strips for younger babies or bites for older babies
- Large, whole shrimp (peeled) (cut into poeces once baby has the pincer grasp and/or teeth)
- Canned tuna or salmon made into tuna salad or salmon salad
- Canned tuna or salmon mashed with avocado
- Made into patties with quinoa, beans, or breadcrumbs and cut into strips
- Homemade fish sticks in finger-sized pieces
Baby Led Weaning Friendly Seafood Recipes
- Salmon Quinoa Burgers (patty and sauce only for baby)
- Grilled Caesar Shrimp Burgers (patty only for baby)
- Grilled Fish Tacos with Strawberry Salsa (just the fish and strawberries on baby's plate)
- Sheet Pan Mediterranean White Fish
- Lemon Asparagus Fish En Papillote
- Cod with Moroccan Stewed Tomatoes and Chickpeas
- Healthier Hatch Chile Crab Cakes
- Garlic Cilantro Salmon
- Smoked Salmon and Kale Frittata