Salmon puree? Toddlers need fish

Here’s an idea for parents: try
giving your toddler a generous helping of pureed salmon for dinner tonight.
Here’s another idea: make it a point to have a dinner No. 2 on hand after your
baby throws dinner No. 1 at your head.

If there’s one hard rule of
childhood, it’s that kids don’t like fish. Yes, they’ll scarf down tuna salad
and fish sticks, but even those don’t count. However, Susan Brewer, a professor
of food science at the University of Illinois, is convinced that babies’
growing bodies – particularly their growing brains – need fish, and she’s
developed just the baby food that she thinks could pass their taste (and
tolerance) test.

There are a lot of reasons all
people are encouraged to eat fish at least twice a week, not the least being
that it’s low in fat and calories. Just as important, it’s also rich in omega-3
fatty acids, which are good for brain and nerve development and help reduce the
risk of cardiovascular disease. For babies, the brain is still very much a work
in progress, and omega-3s – particularly a type called docosahexaenoic acid
(DHA) – are critical. A baby’s brain, says Ms Brewer, is 50 per cent DHA, but a
baby’s liver is not good at synthesizing enough of it.

“If small children are going to get
enough DHA,” she says, “they’re going to have to ingest it in their food.”

Salmon, Ms Brewer decided, is one
of the best possible ways to provide it. Not only is the fish especially high
in omega-3s, it’s also mild tasting, which is part of what drives its global
popularity so far up. Ms Brewer developed a baby food that uses wild salmon
caught late in the fish’s life, a time when its flesh has begun to soften. She
also adds salmon bone meal and roe to her mix, which boosts nutrient level.

OK, that sounds nasty, but when the
raw ingredients are processed into baby food, the result is a product that, Ms
Brewer says, tastes more like salmon and cream-cheese dip than plain
salmon. 

Brewer believes that introducing
fish early will help nurture not just babies’ brains, but their palates too.
One reason so many Americans have an aversion to fish is that it was not made
part of their diets when their tastes were developing. Fish-based baby food
already sells well in Asia, Italy and the UK, in part because those countries
include fish early and often in a child’s life. 

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