It can be hard to get kids to even try fish – smell, looks, texture all play a part, and of course, the less we serve it the more unfamiliar it becomes. Here are my 10 tips to help you get fish to the table, and get your kids to eat fish, more often…
And should they eat fish? Yes! In addition to high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals, fish is a great source of healthy oils that are essential for a child’s developing brain, nervous system and vision. This isn’t just about children either. Preparing fish can be fiddly and even adults who enjoy eating fish often don’t like cooking it 😉
I was reminded of this last night as I served up some barramundi, green beans and oven fries (because I have a family of reluctant fish eaters who need a potato chip reward!). I used to be nervous about cooking with fish and mostly stuck to tinned tuna recipes, but I’ve picked up a lot of great advice over the years as well as working out some things for myself.
Here are some things I’ve learned
- The less you do to fish, the better. The easiest way is usually best, so buy it as fresh as you can and cook as simply as you can.
- If you’re a batter queen, yay! Otherwise leave the deep frying and macadamia crusts for when you eat out
- citrus and fish are best friends for more reasons than flavour. A squeeze of lemon or lime juice in the pan when you fry fish really cuts that fishy smell down.
- Hate how fish sticks to the BBQ plate or pan? Cook it on top of a layer of baking paper – it won’t burn and your fish will still brown (same principle applies to wrapping fish up in individual packages for the oven).
- OR if you’ve got plenty of lemons or limes, slice them up and cook the fish on top of the slices. You won’t get as much colour but you’ll get extra flavour AND no sticking 🥂
- Do your kids say they hate fish? Don’t give up! Try serving salmon or ocean trout for a while. Lots of kids seem happier with the pink colour, more meaty texture, lower smell and milder flavour of salmon compared to white fish.
- A splash of teriyaki or soy sauce in the last few seconds of cooking and a sprinkle of sesame seeds changes the look of fish, adds a more familiar umami flavour, masks the colour and smell, and can help get kids to eat fish
- it’s much easier – and tidier! – to dip fish in a single coat off flour than any kind of egg wash and crumb. Do yourself a favour and take the easy path so you get more fish in your family meals.
- Nothing beats fresh fish and chips eaten close to the ocean – or river if you’re inland – and making fish part of a family picnic treat is also a good way to encourage reluctant fish eaters to explore.
- If your kids are used to eating chicken nuggets when out, order them some crumbed fish rather than battered or grilled and, if possible, in slender, boneless pieces like red mullet or whiting fillets. There’s nothing wrong with buying frozen crumbed fillets for home, too. This is a ‘bridging’ technique which can be used to help fussy eaters. You take an aspect of a familiar food and apply it to a new ingredient to make it less strange.
Head to the Facebook UnYucky Families page to share your tips to get kids to eat fish!
They’re up before the sun
I’m trying hard to snore,
They tiptoe through the house,
Forget – and slam the door.
They’ve got me wide awake,
I’m lying there just wishing
They’d start collecting stamps
Instead of going fishing.
Hours later they return
Delighted with their catch.
The smallest one smiles up at me,
I force a smile to match.
I’m given fishy corpses,
I look at them and think
How much nicer they look,
swimming at sea
Than lying there dead on my sink.
Finally they’re cooked
and I serve them on a dish,
And I think to myself that a four letter word
Beginning with F?