Seafood is one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods you can cook for your family. It is rich in protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals like iodine, selenium, zinc, iron, and B vitamins.
Regular seafood consumption offers numerous health benefits, such as improved heart health, brain function, eye health, and immunity. Yet, despite these advantages, many families, including children and adults, often avoid seafood due to its unique flavors and textures.
Diving into the numbers reveals an interesting picture: According to the USDA, a staggering 9 in 10 Americans don’t meet the recommended seafood intake. In 2014, the average American citizen ate no more than 14.6 pounds of seafood, according to a survey.
There could be several reasons for this underconsumption, including a lack of awareness of the disadvantages of not eating seafood, not knowing how to select and prepare fish, and concerns about mercury levels, etc.
However, you can overcome these barriers with the right techniques and knowledge. Here are ten tips to make your family love seafood:
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1. Disguise it in Family Favorites
Instead of trying to get your family to eat seafood plain, disguise it in dishes they already love. Put diced shrimp in macaroni and cheese, salmon burgers, or fish tacos. Blend mussels into tomato sauce for pasta.
Bake white fish fillets into casseroles like ziti or lasagna. The familiar flavors and textures will make the seafood seem less foreign. Just start with small amounts of seafood and gradually increase as they get more accustomed to it.
As your family falls in love with seafood, start preparing more concentrated dishes like squid ink pasta! If you’re a pro at cooking seafood, this squid ink pasta recipe with shrimp won’t take up much of your time or ingredients, so you can even prepare this during weekdays.
2. Make Kid-Friendly Shapes
Cutting fish into fun shapes transforms it from something unfamiliar to something fun. Use cookie cutters to make fish nuggets or finger-fish or form patties into rounds or stars. Skewer chunks of fish alternated with vegetables onto kabobs.
Create “fish pops” by coating pieces with crumbs and then baking on sticks. Serve with dipping sauces for dunking. Getting creative with shapes and textures makes fish more appealing and hands-on for kids.
Moreover, adding a silly name, face, or other playful element makes seafood more fun and approachable for kids. Draw funny faces with sauce on fish fillets or shrimp. Shape rice and seafood into “sushi monsters.” Name dishes like “mermaid nuggets” or “fishosaurus fingers.” Using their imagination to create characters makes it an adventure versus just another dinner.
A great recipe is Panko Crusted Tilapia Bake. Simply coat tilapia fillets with panko breadcrumbs, parmesan, paprika, and parsley. Bake until flaky. Serve over pasta with marinara sauce for a comforting dish kids love. The crispy, mild white fish complements the tomato sauce and pasta perfectly.
3. Make it Fun and Interactive
Kids are much more likely to enjoy the foods they help make. Let them get involved in preparing seafood to make it more fun versus scary. Have them help brush fish with oil and breadcrumbs or sprinkle on seasoning.
Let them mix ingredients for crab cakes or salmon patties and shape them into balls or patties. Older kids can learn to debone fish or peel shrimp.
A great interactive recipe is DIY Fish Tacos. Set up a taco bar with baked white fish, tortillas, lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole, cheese, and any other favorite toppings. Kids will have a blast piling on fixings and customizing their tacos.
4. Disguise with Dips and Sauces
Offering flavorful sauces, dips, and condiments alongside seafood is a surefire way to increase enjoyment. Kids love to dunk and douse their food. Whip up homemade tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, remoulade, or aioli.
Provide ranch, bbq sauce, or honey mustard for dipping. Set out lemon wedges, mango salsa, or chimichurri. An array of sauces adds flavor and moisture while allowing them to customize each bite.
5. Cook Low and Slow
Braising, stewing, and slow-cooking seafood in flavorful liquid transforms its taste and texture into something new. The gentle heat tenderizes fish and allows it to soak up the surrounding flavors.
Try seafood stews, chowders, curries, gumbos, and poached salmon. The slower cooking methods yield ultra-tender, juicy results. The liquid also creates a tasty sauce or broth for sopping up with bread.
Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo is a flavorful one-pot meal. Slowly cook shrimp, sausage, vegetables, and seasonings in broth. Serve over rice for a comforting Southern favorite. The tender shrimp soaks up the rich flavors of the sauce.
6. Pair with Familiar Flavors
Combining seafood with kid-friendly flavors like cheese, bacon, pasta, and rice makes it more enticing. Stuff fish with cheese and breadcrumbs before baking. Wrap asparagus and fish in prosciutto before roasting, and top fish tacos with melty cheese. Bake fish in tomato or cheese sauce. Serving seafood with these beloved pairings builds acceptance.
Cheesy Tuna Casserole is a classic for a reason. Mix tuna with egg noodles, cream of mushroom soup, and peas. Top with a cheesy breadcrumb crust and bake until bubbly. The rich, creamy tuna mixture over pasta is irresistible comfort food. The crunchy topping adds a satisfying texture.
7. Disguise in Fried Foods
There’s a reason fish and chips are a universally loved dish! Frying seafood in a crispy batter or breadcrumb coating transforms its texture into something irresistible. Try beer-battered fish, fish tacos, or coconut shrimp. The crunchy outside combined with tender seafood is hard for anyone to resist.
Popcorn Shrimp is beloved by kids and adults alike. Coat small shrimp in a light, crispy batter, and deep fry until golden. Serve with cocktail or tartar sauce for dipping.
8. Cook on Sticks
Skewering seafood onto kabobs or sticks is another fun, hands-on way to engage kids. Wooden skewers turn dinner into an interactive game.
Thread chunks of fish alternated with vegetables, fruit like pineapple or peaches, and even bacon. Brush with a glaze or sauce, then grill or broil the kabobs. Kids will have a blast assembling their own skewer creations.
Grilled Fruit and Shrimp Skewers are a fun twist on kabobs. Thread shrimp and fruit like pineapple, peaches, or apricots onto skewers. Grill lightly until the shrimp is pink. Brush with a sweet glaze like honey or teriyaki. The caramelized fruit provides a sweet complement to the savory shrimp.
With creativity and patience, you can make seafood something your whole family enjoys rather than dreads. Focus on disguising it in approachable forms, getting kids involved in preparation, and pairing it with kid-friendly flavors. Keep the seasoning mild at first, allowing everyone to adjust. With time they will develop a genuine love of seafood’s amazing flavors and textures.