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Fish isn’t scary! How to get your kids to eat it

| OCT 31, 2016

I grew up in Spain where children view fish and seafood as a treat, something to be savoured and relished.  They will suck the brains out of prawns and chew their legs because they know that’s where all the good flavours are.  British children? Not so much.  Unless it looks like a finger shaped thing covered in cheap breadcrumbs, nah ah – no thanks.

Fish and seafood are so good for us, and cooked in lots of butter with garlic and lemon they’re a thing of beauty. 

We’re an island surrounded by sea, a nation of fishermen, and we export most of our delicious seafood to… you guessed it… Spain.  All our beautiful Scottish lobsters, off to Spain.

Fish and seafood are so good for us, and cooked in lots of butter with garlic and lemon they’re a thing of beauty.  We need to educate our children’s taste buds and teach them not to be afraid of foods that aren’t beige and covered in breadcrumbs.


Photograph by Gregory Bourolias

Oily fish are the key ones to get children to eat because of the high Omega 3 and DHA content.  Critical for their brains and for myriad health reasons.  Proven to improve reading and behaviour, oily fish should be on every school menu on a daily basis.

But what child will eat a plate of boney sardines from the barbeque?  Not many.  Well, Spanish children would.  So, here are some ways to get them to not only eat it but to love it.

Smoked mackerel paté

Cheap, incredibly easy to make and kids love it because they can dip things into it.  This is how I make mine:

Get a pack of smoked mackerel fillets (available in every supermarket), a tub of cottage cheese (full fat – kids need fat) and half a lemon juiced.  Stick it all in a food processor and whizz up until smooth.  Make sure you buy filleted mackerel or cut out the boney bits in the middle.  Even whizzed up, spikey bones can still sneak through and that can kill your chances of getting them to eat it.  Kids hate chewy/spikey/gristly bits in their food.  So do I actually.

Even better, get your kids to make it.  Mine love doing it.  Then put it in a bowl, chop up some carrots, cucumber and cherry tomatoes.  Toast some pitta bread and put it all on the table for them to dip.

This is a really good mid week dinner and super healthy.  Every parent’s dream.

Homemade mackerel fish fingers

Finger shaped food.  Always a winner.  Buy some fresh mackerel (again, from any supermarket and it’s cheap) and cut out the bony centre section.  Then cut each fillet in half.  Whizz up some corn flakes (sugar free) in a food processor to make crumbs and put them on a plate.  Whisk an egg in a bowl.  Now coat each finger in egg and then coat in the corn flake crumbs by dunking it in the crumbs, turning several times.   Again, this is something the children can do.

Finger shaped food.  Always a winner. 

Heat up a decent amount of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the fingers until the crumbs are crispy.  Make a ‘pink’ sauce by mixing mayonnaise and tomato ketchup.  Put them all on a plate in the middle of the table and let the kids dunk them into the pink sauce.  You can also put them in a sandwich with lots of mayonnaise, lettuce and lemon juice.  Delicious.

Anchovies on buttered bread

A standard aperitif in Italy, this couldn’t be easier and the kids love it.  Buy some good quality salted anchovies (Spanish ones are the best in my opinion).  Get some really lovely sourdough or crusty bread (this won’t work on Sunblest sliced white).  Spread the butter thickly with unsalted organic butter and pop an anchovy on top.  Adults, this works very well with Champagne as a pre dinner nibble.

Smoked salmon blinis


Basically, children love eating ‘party’ food.  Obviously you can do the smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel which most kids love.  But buy some blinis, heat them up, pop some sour cream on, a piece of smoked salmon and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Watch your kids fight over oily fish.

Adults, also works really well with Champagne. 

There’s a theme developing here.  I don’t feed my kids, I just let them steal our aperitif when we have a dinner party.

Sardine toasted sandwich

Buy some good quality tinned sardines which have been filleted (the tin should say sardine fillets).  Waitrose own brand are delicious and mild.  Drain out the oil and mash them in a bowl with mayonnaise and if your kids like a little spice add some chilli sauce.   Put inside two slices of good bread, sourdough or similar.  Heat some butter in a frying pan, pop the sandwich in and put something heavy on top or flatten down with a spatula.  Turn over and do the same on the other side.

They need to learn to appreciate food and there’s nothing like watching your parent ‘murder’ your dinner. 

Give them a lobster


I know this sounds outlandish and this is definitely not an easy mid-week dinner.  There’s a lot of work involved in this one. And obviously you won’t do this very often, but do it now and again instead of a Sunday roast or going out to eat.  Go to a fishmonger and buy some fresh, live lobsters.  The kids love seeing them wriggling around (don’t chase them round the kitchen with one because that’s just childish).  It also does them good to see their food alive before they eat it.  They need to learn to appreciate food and there’s nothing like watching your parent ‘murder’ your dinner. 

Boil up your lobsters – you’ll need a huge pan of boiling water (Google how to do this – you don’t want to overcook them or they’re like rubber).  Split them open and serve with lashings of mayonnaise, salt, lemon juice and crusty bread.  Adults, this goes really well with Champagne….

If you’re really brave, you can dispatch the lobsters by splitting them open with a knife through the head and then you can barbeque or grill them.  Whichever you feel more comfortable with. 

Trust me, this is a great way to get children into ‘scary food’.

By Melanie Lawson, founder of Bare Biology and mother of three.

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