March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
What if someone told you there was a food that could improve your child's brain and heart health, takes only minutes to prepare and is packed with protein? There is! Fish — it does all this…and more. Yet, many families are strangers to this power food. "Kids and adults are often turned off by fish's smell or because they haven't eaten it before so they haven't developed a taste for it," says Sarah Krieger, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "However, if parents have a positive attitude about serving and eating fish, their kids will follow along as well."
If you'd like to make more fish meals happen in your home, try these tips.
Make It a Regular Event
Health experts recommend two fish meals a week to provide omega-3 fats — found mostly in seafood — which are important for a healthy heart, brain and eyes. If seafood is a new addition to your family's table, it may take a few tries to win over everyone's tastebuds. "Over time, your child may be more interested in fish if it's prepared in a variety of ways," says Jessica Levinson, RDN, "It also helps to start with a mild fish like tilapia, sole or halibut."
Fishy smells are a turnoff to anyone — and for good reason. Those odors are a sign that seafood is no longer fresh. Fish should smell briny, like the sea. Because seafood spoils more quickly than meat, make sure to eat it within two days of purchase.
"When kids are able to catch their own fish, and it's legal and safe to eat, they'll be proud and more motivated to prepare and eat it," says Krieger. Can't swing a fishing trip? Plan a family outing to your local fish counter and let everyone pick their own single-serve portion of their favorite fresh fish in season.
Try a New Spin on Familiar Foods
"Homemade fish sticks are easy to make and more tasty and nutritious than packaged brands," says Levinson. Dip strips of cod, salmon or halibut into egg whites, coat with whole-wheat panko or breadcrumbs, bake and serve with honey mustard sauce. Or dish up kid-friendly fish tacos. Sprinkle tilapia filets with garlic and chili powder and grill or bake. Then, serve them in corn tortillas with sautéed peppers, onions and guacamole – and watch them disappear!