I would love to get my child to eat fish. We've tried salmon and tilapia but have not come up with a creative way to get them to enjoy more than a "no thank you bite".
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Your grade is an A for persevering.
Lox, capers and cream cheese on bagel is nearly the only fish we can get our 3-year-old to eat. He asks for it for breakfast 3 mornings a week or more. We let him pile the stuff on on his own, this seems to add to the appeal. Great fish & chips sometimes works too. Also try making crispy, pan fried fish cakes with plenty of panko, and whatever dipping sauce she likes best.
Fish cakes for a toddler should be clean-basic:
flaked fish (leftovers work great - or chopped raw), egg, panko, minced shallot and/or capers (if your kid is into them) – mind that the shallot is very fine – don't risk rejection based on a detectable chunk of onion! Mix, form 2" balls/patties, dust with a bit more panko, fry in oil or butter until golden brown & crispy (if you are used raw fish, insert a knife in center to check for opacity if need be). Nice for grown-ups too as a simple supper. Possible sauces to please the lot: Tartar, Chipotle Cream, Sweet & Salty Lime Yogurt. Serve with pilaf and veg.
These "fish sticks" are highly recommended. If the Lime & Tarragon Aioli is too much, just serve them without it. Or you could mix a dab of sweet pickle relish into a bit of mayo for some basic tartar sauce. Bon appetit to the wee one!
Depending on your child's age, you could try simply rebranding with a little creative marketing. My father got me to eat an omelette which I initially hated by calling it "egg cake.". No matter if it was sweet, anything "cake" has got to be good, right? That might work for salmon cakes. I read that the authors of Dinner, A Love story call salmon the "princess fish" to get their daughters to eat it. You could go a similar route with boys, I am sure....Superhero Tuna? Fireman's Tilapia? (not to be too gender essentialist...obviously, you go with own kid's interests)
Sometimes it isn't the recipe but the presentation that makes all the difference in getting kids to give new foods a chance.
My father used to call the raw cabbage core the 'candy bar'. I still like to eat it, as is, sprinkled generously with salt; what a sucker!
My grands enjoyed my homemade fish sticks (Goujonettes of Sole!) when they were small. Truth to tell, they still love them, and have made them for their own kids.
Enlist the help of a friend. Serve fish at dinner---don't serve the child any. Have the friend say something "why don't you give the kid fish"?
"Oh, he isn't ready for adult food yet".
Sam, you evil genius
Sam & Ono, if only that worked!
Serve him fish sticks. Don't waste fish on a 4 y/o. It's a waste of time and money.
I'm not sure I've seen a response on Food52 which has shocked me more.
We don't make a big deal of any food that is eaten or not, but we keep serving it. It has taken us sometimes 20+ times of serving something before our girls finally eat that item. The key, we have found, is to remain dispassionate about it but to keep doing it. We say something like: "I really think you will like salmon this time--try a little to make sure". When they say "no", we say OK. Then daddy eats it. ;-) But it will be on their plate again in future meals.
We have been taking that approach since early toddler-hood and now that they are 6 and 8, they eat just about anything that we eat , including fish. Sometimes I wish otherwise, as going out for sushi got really expensive.
Try these fish sticks:
I normally isn't a fish + cheese fan, but this works out quite well.
I hated seafood as a kid. I remember slowly starting to like into my teens (and college! I'm sorry. I am ashamed) in the following order: salmon, shrimp, crab, lobster, white fish, everything else.
Since it took me so long it's hard for me to think of what would have made me like it faster. I think my main issue was with very 'fishy' tastes and smells - so maybe try to stay away from stronger tasting oily fishes, cook them in a non-smelly way, and serve with lots of other things that overwhelm the fishy flavor. Which I know is a cop-out, but there you go. My sister makes nice salmon cakes with canned salmon - I can imagine that if you up the veggies, eggs, bread crumbs and other binders, you can make the fish a little more appealing.
But to be honest, for me it always came down to the fact that I wasn't allowed to leave the table until I had three (real) bites of everything. Except, of course, when my family had lobster and were perfectly happy not to waste it on me. Oh, the shame.
Because I can't edit: I mentioned my 'three bites rule' because it is the only context in which I remember actually eating fish. Not because it's the best solution by any means - I was just picky.
I'm convinced my kids loved sushi at ages 2 and 3 because of the chopsticks and soy sauce. Dipping is always fun. And chopsticks? Poking your food with a stick? How's that not going to be a hit?
I once got my fish adverse godkids to eat it by referring to the tuna steak as steak. I even clued one of them in as to what I was doing and she also asked for seconds.
Then there's always the tactic of breaking it into small bits and mix it into something they like: rice, pasta. The daughter would eat anything with rice, and the son, pasta.
Also, make it part of a soup. And I agree with several peoples' suggestions to turn it into finger food with something to dip it into.
And don't ever buy commercially-made fish sticks. They're made with who knows what kinds of fish, but almost always "trim," they're loaded with cheap fats and sodium, and contain virtually no nutrients. You'd be better off sending him to bed with no dinner.
The question I am left with is why fish? If your kid doesn't like fish, don't force it. There are many ways to get the omega's. As a Mom of a grown daughter I know the more energy I put in forcing an idea, the more resistance I got. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch/web/sfw_regional.aspx tells us what fish is least polluted.
Personally I would fight the battle of more great vegetables.