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What's Your Fish Story?

How are you doing with this month's Healthy Habit to eat seafood twice a week?   Looking at how folks responded to our question on Facebook, most people are falling short of this goal.  Only  32% are eating fish or seafood two times a week.

I tapped registered dietitian and blogger Jill Castle of Just the Right Byte to talk about her fish story.  

Everyone has a fish story.  Mostly, when I hear families talk about their fish story, I hear about struggles with finding a fish their child will eat, rejections they have experienced as a result of offering fish, or their own dislike of fish.

Even I have a fish story, flush with my own struggles: a shellfish allergic husband, a “meat and potatoes” mid-western upbringing, and a tribe of four young, impressionable children.

But that didn’t stop me from plugging ahead with a strategy to make fish a family favorite.

And you know what? I’ve succeeded.  I have four children who enjoy, even love, eating fish. A big part of this success was introducing fish early and including it on the menu regularly.  Another key to my success: patience.

I believe it’s never too late to introduce fish to your family. And even if you have your own seemingly insurmountable obstacles, go ahead and give it another try—you may reel in some willing eaters!

Jill offered these tips to “lure” your kids (and you) into a fish eating healthy habit:

Play the Name Game. Providing fun and familiar names for fish can ease a child’s natural skepticism.  Use "fishy" terms of endearment, such as pink fish (salmon), shrimpy shrimp (shrimp), looney-tuny (tuna), and white fish (cod). Be open and honest with the real name if asked—you don’t want your child to feel that something fishy is afoot.

Serve it with style. Kids are swayed by the appearance of food, and this alone can determine whether a child will try fish or not. Boost the eye-appeal and get creative with your presentation: fish skewered on sticks, sautéed on a bed of pasta, grilled, baked in a boat or crisped in the oven. Kids also like the “make your own approach.”

‘Tis the Season! Most kids I know like flavor, but many parents go for bland out of fear of food rejection. From basic sea salt to more complex spices or sauces, kids like food that tastes good. If your child shies away from combined or “dressed” foods, provide sauces or seasonings on the side for dipping.

Tailor the Flavor. Whether crunchy, cheesy, lightly browned, or mildly spiced, children have their taste-bud preferences. By making your own fish entrées, you can tailor the flavor to your family’s ‘buds and keep the odds in favor of fish favorites.

Keep your poker face, and smile on the inside. When introducing fish to children, it’s best to keep a neutral attitude.  Leave your emotions in the kitchen and remember introducing fish is an adventure! If you’re tempted to cheer or clap when your child takes a bite, or show disappointment when it doesn’t work out, know that this may ultimately influence how your child feels about fish.

So what’s your fish story? Share your successes with our seafood challenge, and let us know about your family-friendly fish recipes.