Best fish for baby food

Can Babies Eat Fish? Safety, Benefits, and More

Can Babies Eat Fish? Safety, Benefits, and More
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By Ellen Landes, MS, RDN, CPT on August 27, 2021 — Medically reviewed by Sade Meeks, MS, RD, Nutrition

Introducing your little one to solid foods is an exciting — sometimes overwhelming — time. It can be tricky to figure out which foods are safe and which should be avoided for babies under a certain age.

Infant cereal, fruits, and vegetables are popular choices for baby’s first foods, but you may wonder whether other foods, such as fish, are safe for your baby.

This article discusses how to introduce your baby to fish, as well as the related benefits, safety considerations, and precautions.

Parents often begin introducing solid foods to their babies around 4–6 months of age. Breast milk or formula is the main source of nutrition for babies under 1 year, and any solid foods offered to babies are considered complementary (1).

Babies get almost all of the nutrition they need through breastmilk and formula. However, vitamin D and iron are two nutrients that breastfed babies may not get enough of, so it’s beneficial when the foods they eat contain them.

Vitamin D is crucial for healthy bones and brain development, and iron is an essential mineral that’s important for many bodily functions, including transporting oxygen (2, 3, 4, 5).

Formula is fortified with these nutrients, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends iron and vitamin D supplement drops for breastfed babies (6).

Many parents start solids by offering infant cereals, which are typically fortified with iron. Fish is another great food for your baby, as it’s a source of iron (7).

Some types of fish, such as salmon, are also a great source of vitamin D, which breastmilk lacks (8).

Additionally, fish is a great source of protein, an important nutrient that builds and repairs tissues in the body, allowing for healthy growth in little ones.

Fish also offers a healthy amount of zinc, another mineral that plays a crucial role in a healthy immune system and cellular growth (9, 10).

Some types of fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fatty acids that provide several health benefits for both babies and adults.

In babies specifically, omega-3 fatty acids are important for healthy brain, eye, and immune system function and development (11, 12, 13, 14).

Vitamin B12 and iodine are two more nutrients found in fish that are beneficial for healthy brain development and red blood cells in babies (15, 16).

It’s considered safe for babies to eat a wide variety of foods once they begin eating solids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until your baby is 6 months before introducing any solid foods (17).

Fish is among the most common allergens, known as the “Big 8,” which is a list of foods responsible for most allergic reactions (18).

In the past, experts recommended delaying these foods. However, more recent research has shown that there’s no need to delay introducing allergens, and introducing them early, at age 4–6 months, may help prevent an allergy (19, 20).

Most experts recommend introducing fish and other potential allergens when you introduce other solid foods, but it’s best to focus on one new food at a time.

By introducing one potential allergen every few days, you can monitor your baby for a potential reaction and identify the trigger more easily (17, 21).

Not all fish are considered safe for babies, as certain types contain high levels of mercury. Here are some safe fish choices to offer babies (22):

Best choices:

  • salmon
  • trout
  • herring
  • whitefish like cod, pollock, or halibut
  • canned, light tuna
  • sardines

Good choices:

  • bluefish
  • snapper
  • tuna, yellowfin
  • grouper
  • halibut

Currently, there are no recommendations regarding the amount of fish to serve babies. However, the recommendation for children ages 2–3 is 1 ounce (28 grams) of fish once or twice per week (23).

While all fish contain some mercury, certain types have higher amounts than others. Too much mercury can lead to toxicity and be a severe health concern. For babies, it’s best to avoid high mercury fish, such as (22):

  • bigeye and bluefin tuna
  • mackerel
  • marlin
  • swordfish
  • shark
  • orange roughy

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines, babies and young children should not consume raw fish, so avoid offering sushi or sashimi to your little one (24).

There are several ways you can offer fish to your baby. If you are using a baby-led weaning approach, you can simply cook the fish to a soft texture and cut it into appropriately sized pieces.

If you’ve chosen to stick with purées, you can cook the fish and purée it yourself. Alternatively, buy it premade.

In order to prepare the fish safely for your baby, remove the skin and debone the fish (lookout for small bones, too) to reduce their risk of choking.

Next, be sure to cook the fish to an internal temperature of 145°F (62.8 °C). A meat thermometer can help ensure the fish reaches a safe temperature (24).

Ideally, the fish will be soft so that your baby can chew it easily. Try cutting the fish into small pieces or flakes before offering it, or you can purée it if you prefer to offer the fish on a spoon.

Canned and frozen fish provide the same nutritional benefits and often come boneless and skinless. They can also be more affordable and easier to keep on hand.

You can prepare these for your baby similarly to how you would cook fish for yourself. Try baking, broiling, or poaching fish. Fish cakes are another popular way to serve fish to your baby.

Sodium and added sugar should be limited for babies, so avoid adding salt, as well as sugary or sweet sauces. Be sure not to add honey to the fish you prepare for your baby, as babies under 1 year should avoid honey.

While there’s no specific recommendation regarding how much fish babies should consume, the CDC recommends that adults eat 2–3 servings, or 8–12 ounces, of low mercury fish per week.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving for children 2–3 years of age, so your baby will likely eat a little less than that (23, 25).

When offering any type of food to babies, it’s important to make sure it has been handled, stored, and cooked safely to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Fish should first be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 °F (62. 8 °C), and then cooled to a safe temperature for your baby (24).

Cooked fish can be stored in the refrigerator for 2–3 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Raw fish should only be kept in the fridge for 1 or 2 days before cooking or freezing. Fish should not be left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours (26).

Because fish is considered a top allergen, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the signs of an allergic reaction.

Call your pediatrician if you notice a mild reaction to fish. That may include swelling around the lips and mouth, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Call 911 if you notice a more severe reaction, such as anaphylaxis, which often presents as drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, scratching, and drowsiness in babies. Other signs might include wheezing, coughing, or hives (27).

Allergic reactions can happen either immediately or over time, so it’s recommended that you introduce one potential allergen every few days so that you can identify any triggers.

Fish can provide a good source of protein, iron, zinc, omega-3, iodine, and vitamin B12 for your baby, all of which are important nutrients for healthy growth and development.

Be sure to choose a fish that is low in mercury, and prepare it safely by cooking it to an internal temperature of 145°F (62.8 °C) and either cutting it into appropriately sized pieces or puréeing it.

Before introducing any solid food, be sure to talk with your baby’s pediatrician, especially if food allergies run in your family.

Just one thing

Try this today: To get important nutrients for you and your baby, try making poached salmon or salmon cakes for the whole family to enjoy as part of dinner.

Last medically reviewed on August 27, 2021

  • Uncategorized
  • Parenthood
  • Baby

How we reviewed this article:

Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

Aug 27, 2021

Written By

Ellen Landes, MS, RDN, CPT

Edited By

Lisa Valente, MS, RD

Medically Reviewed By

Sade Meeks, MS, RD

Copy Edited By

Christina Guzik, BA, MBA

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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of licensed nutritionists and dietitians strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.

By Ellen Landes, MS, RDN, CPT on August 27, 2021 — Medically reviewed by Sade Meeks, MS, RD, Nutrition

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The Best Fish for Babies

When it comes to introducing new foods to your baby, it can seem like there are a lot of things to keep in mind!  How should you introduce solid foods to your baby's diet, should you give a food or not, do you need to be concerned with potential allergens, how do you introduce a variety of foods? And fish for babies is right at the top of those concerns. So let's talk about it!

Fish Is One of the Top Allergenic Foods

First and foremost, there is good reason to be sure to include fish in your baby's diet. Fish is one of the top 9 foods that can cause a food allergy. If we consider seafood as well, then we are talking about two of the top 9 foods.

Recent research has shown the importance of introducing potential food allergens early, ideally around 6 months of age and before 1 year. This goes for babies with a family history of food allergies, or other high risk concerns like severe eczema, as well.

We know that introducing foods that have a high risk for an allergic reaction for the first time early, and then continuing to expose them to that allergen for several years can actually be protective against food allergies. Which means we have the potential to lower the number of people with a fish allergy simply by introducing it intentionally to our babies.

Other Health Benefits of Fish

On top of the potential to prevent the development of an allergy, there are several other reasons that fish is an important food for your baby.

Fish is a great source of protein. But more importantly than that it is a fairly good source of heme iron. Iron is one of the essential nutrients that your baby needs to get from foods in their first year of life.

There are several different types of fish that are also great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats are types of essential fatty acids, like the highly beneficial docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), that have many functions in the body. They help with brain development, as well as potentially function in cell development and immune system functioning.

Levels of omega- 3 vary by the type of fish, but a general rule of thumb is that fatty fish (like salmon) are the best choices for helping get the omega-3 benefits for your baby's brain development and overall health.

Vitamin D in Fish

Vitamin D is another nutrient of concern for babies, and one that is actually fairly hard to come by in food. Some variety of fish (like salmon and sardines), especially ones with bones in them, can actually be a good source of vitamin D. And yes, the bones are soft enough that babies can eat them!

Is Fish Safe for Babies?

Now that you know the health benefits of including fish in your child's diet, let's talk about the other side of things.

Many fish can have high levels of mercury in them. Mercury is an element that is incredibly toxic to people. It can have an effect on everything from the nervous system to the digestive and immune systems as well as many other organs. (Ref)

Even more concerning, high mercury levels can be incredibly damaging for pregnant women and young children due to the effect mercury has on brain development in an unborn baby and in younger children. (Ref)

So what does that mean for your baby?

Incorporating Fish In Your Child's Diet

Like with most things nutrition related, fish is not all good or all bad. Too much of anything can be harmful for us, and fish is no exception. So how do we know how much fish is safe for our kids, and which ones to choose?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 1-2 portions of fish weekly for babies and children. They recommend focusing on fish from the best and good choices categories. These categories, developed by the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, would mean that it is safe for babies to have fish with mercury at or less than .23 microgram/gram. But let's get technical for a minute because I think it's really important here.

Let's Look at The Actual Mercury Levels in Fish

When it comes to feeding babies, I prefer to be on the safer side. We know that mercury is incredibly neurotoxic to babies. The World Health Organization actually recommends keeping mercury intake to 1.6 micrograms/kg of bodyweight per week. If we're strictly looking at an average baby weight, let's say that 6-12 month olds weigh between 7-9 kg (about 16-20 pounds.)

Using that, the most mercury that a baby should have is somewhere between 11.2 micrograms and 14.4 micrograms. If we use the 2 servings a week guideline, that means 2 ounces (or 56 grams) of fish. With that number, it is safe for 16 pound babies to have fish with up to . 2 micrograms of mercury per gram. For bigger 20 pound babies, that number would go up to .26 micrograms per gram.

Baby Fish Serving Size Recommendations

But the key here is 2 ounces! That's not much fish when it comes down to it. These guidelines for babies and toddlers were put into place when babies generally ate baby food only. Now that baby led weaning and finger foods are much more popular, it is entirely plausible that your baby would easily eat more than 2 ounces of fish at just one sitting.

On top of that, if you know anything about my feeding philosophy, I put great importance on allowing your child to choose how much food to eat of what you serve. It can impact your feeding relationship with your child if you start to limit the amount of food that they eat once you've served it. That's just something that we want to avoid.

So what's the solution?

The Best Types of Fish for Babies

There is no one size fits all solution. The best way to look at this is to evaluate the amount of fish that you want to incorporate into your diet.

If you're someone like me who doesn't really enjoy fish and will have a hard time incorporating it into your family's diet, then you can safely stick with the guideline to feed fish under .23 micrograms of mercury/gram. With that, your baby getting up to 2 ounces a week of it would be safe. Although it is likely best to serve it all at once to allow them to choose how much they eat of it instead of breaking it up into multiple meals.

If you incorporate fish frequently in your family's diet, then it is going to be even more important to limit fish with higher levels of mercury. With this, if you kept the levels of mercury in the fish to .06 micrograms/gram or less, your baby could safely have up to 8 ounces or 224 grams of fish a week. 

What about if you want to serve fish that falls above .06 micrograms but below .23 micrograms and your baby is likely to eat more than 2 ounces? Spread out how often you serve it. If your baby is likely to eat 4-8 ounces of the fish, try serving it every other week or once a month. Spreading out the medium mercury fish is another way to approach it.

So what fish types fall under those levels?

The Best Low-Mercury Fish for Babies (at or under .06 micrograms/gram of mercury)

Let's start with the fish with the least amount of mercury. Good choices tend to be small fish, as they have not had the lifespan or diet that increases mercury levels.

All the fish with asterisks (*) are ones that are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. (Ref) Which means prioritizing them for our children is a great idea!

In order of average concentration levels of mercury according to the US EPA:

  • Scallop
  • Tilapia
  • Shrimp
  • Sardines*
  • Canned salmon*
  • Oyster*
  • Clam
  • Squid
  • Fresh or frozen salmon*
  • Catfish
  • Anchovy*
  • Pollock*
  • Crawfish
  • Shad*
  • Whiting
  • Mullet
  • Atlantic mackerel*
  • Haddock
  • Flatfish
  • Crab
  • Butterfish

Good Choices for Babies (at or under .

23 micrograms/gram of mercury)
  • Freshwater trout*
  • Striped bass (ocean)*
  • Atlantic croaker
  • Smelt
  • Herring*
  • Hake
  • Whitefish*
  • Sheepshead
  • Pickerel
  • Pacific chub mackerel*
  • Lobster
  • Cod
  • Carp
  • Perch (ocean)
  • Canned light tuna (includes skipjack)
  • Black sea bass*
  • Tilefish (from Atlantic Ocean)*
  • Skate
  • Buffalofish
  • Perch, freshwater
  • Monkfish
  • Snapper
  • Mahi mahi
  • Weakfish/sea trout
  • Rockfish
  • Halibut* (this one averages .24 ug/g so is slightly out of the limits but still acceptable occasionally.)

Fish to Avoid for Babies (.25 micrograms/gram of mercury or higher)

There are several fish that are recommended to be avoided by pregnant women and babies due to their higher levels of mercury. The larger fish tend to be the worst fish when it comes to mercury levels. Large fish generally eat smaller fish, which means that they are ingesting the mercury the small fish have and it is being concentrated in them. (Ref)

  • White croaker/Pacific croaker
  • Yellowfin tune
  • Canned tuna, albacore or white
  • Spanish mackerel
  • Chilean sea bass/Patagonian toothfish
  • Albacore tuna/white tuna fresh/frozen
  • Sablefish
  • Bluefish
  • Grouper
  • Marlin
  • Orange roughy
  • Bigeye tuna
  • King mackerel
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish (from the Gulf of Mexico)

Farmed Fish Versus Wild Fish and Other Considerations

The above list focuses strictly on mercury and omega-3 levels. When it comes to fish, we know that there are other things to consider from a sustainability standpoint as well.

No method, whether fishing or farming, is foolproof. Each method has it's pros and cons, as well as companies and people who are doing it well and those that aren't. It is hard to say something like all atlantic salmon are farmed and should be avoided, which I have heard before. But there are definitely things to consider when it comes to farmed fish, for our own health as well as the environment.

The best way I have found to evaluate these issues is to use the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program. There you can search the best choices for the type of fish you would like to buy.

It will tell you if a type of fish is certified, is from a responsible company, and so much more. It is a great resource to go a step beyond mercury issues.

How to Evaluate Fish Not on This List

This list was created from the list maintained by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Which means that if you are in a different country, there is a chance that fish you have access to is not on this list. 

Most regions have local agencies that maintain mercury advisories. The best thing to do is find the list relevant to your local area and the fish available to you. Then use the numbers of .06 micrograms/gram and .23 micrograms/gram to find the fish that fall within these limits. 

Nutrition and Feeding Our Babies Is a Balancing Act

Wouldn't it be easier if everything about nutrition and feeding was black and white? Unfortunately, that's just not the case. Things like fish can be both incredibly beneficial and potentially harmful to our kids.

It is a balancing act that will be playing out with our kids for years to come.

And it's why putting the focus on incorporating a variety of different foods into your child's diet is often the best, and most protective, approach. Then you will get the benefits of lots of different foods, without needing to be overly concerned with the potential downfalls of them as well.

From what age and what kind of fish can children?

April 23, 2019


  • How much fish can be given to children
  • What kind of fish can a child at 1 year old
  • Which fish is suitable for children from 3 years old
  • About the health benefits of fish
  • How to cook fish for babies
Starting from 8-9 months, fish can be included in the child's diet, as it is a source of easily digestible protein, minerals and amino acids. However, it is recommended not to give it more than twice a week to avoid an allergic reaction.

Let's talk about what kind of fish a one-year-old child can eat, in what form and why this product is so useful in childhood.

How much fish per day can be given to children from 8 months: table

Fish is a rather allergenic product, and it is not the fish itself that can cause a negative reaction, but the substances that it contains. Therefore, at the first signs of intolerance, it should be excluded from the diet and postponed to an older age.

To determine. how much to give fish to your children, refer to the table:

From what age

How many

From 8-12 months

From 5 to 30 gr

From 1 year to 3 years

30-50 gr

From 4 to 7 years old

50-70 gr

7 to 14 years old

70-100 gr

From 14 years old

100-20 gr

What kind of fish can children under one year old?

At this age, the body is quite whimsical, therefore, according to tradition, all the best and safest things are for babies. A few tips for choosing fish for young children:

Marine or freshwater

Nutritionists agree that sea and ocean fish is the most suitable for introducing the baby to this product. First, because it is the most environmentally friendly. Secondly, it contains more nutrients. And thirdly, it has fewer bones, and they are larger, so you are more likely to separate the fillets from them.

Red or white

Red fish is very popular among adults, but for children at 10 months it is better to use white fish. It is less allergenic.

Did you know that the red color in some varieties of fish is due to their diet - they eat reddish crustaceans. This red pigment builds up and gives their meat its color.

By fat content

Fish seems to us one of the most dietary foods. So it is, but do not forget that some varieties can contain more than 30% fat. In the first months of life, the child should try only low-fat varieties of fish (no more than 4% fat), as they are faster and easier to digest. It can be: hake, flounder, cod.

Leave medium-fat fish (for example, catfish or sea bass) until the age of one and a half years.

Frozen or fresh

Of course, freshly caught fish is the best option for the first feeding. The main thing is to choose it correctly. A product with a smell (even a light one) - we immediately say “no” to the seller. To properly appreciate the aroma of a fish, try to bend its gills - in this place there should be no smell other than the sea.

And fresh fish should have:

  • Nice color
  • Clear eyes
  • Firm and shiny scales

Do not be too afraid of fresh-frozen fish. With proper storage, the product will not be inferior in useful properties to fresh. If you trust the seller, you can safely take a freeze. Defrost it slowly, first in the refrigerator and then at room temperature - this will preserve its texture.

What to look for: Frozen fish should not have a thick ice crust. This appearance indicates that it has already been defrosted. And such a product should not be used by adults, let alone small children.

What kind of fish can a child from 3 years old?

Of course, these children can eat all the same varieties as babies, as well as add new ones.

For example, three-year-old children can be given medium-fat and oily fish. Fatty fish (from 8% fat) include mackerel, herring, salmon, pink salmon and many others.

From the age of 3, a child can eat both red and white fish, regardless of the habitat.

Why fish should be included in children's diet

From early childhood, teach your child to the taste of fish. This product will help not only diversify the children's menu, but also take care of the baby's health.

The benefits of fish for children's health:

  • As we have already said, fish is a protein that is easily digested and is the best suited for a fragile digestive system and reduces the load on the pancreas. And there is never enough protein for a growing organism.
  • The product is rich in essential amino acids, which also favors the development of the child.
  • Fish contains a large amount of vitamin D. Together with calcium, this substance builds bone tissue and the skeleton. The lack of this substance at a young age can cause rickets and other bone diseases.
  • Vitamin A, which increases the body's resistance against viral diseases.
  • Fish will help to fill the iodine deficiency for the healthy functioning of the thyroid gland and the proper functioning of the brain.

In what form should fish be given to children?

Children under one year old can only eat fish fillet, crushed to a homogeneous mass. You can boil the fish and chop it yourself with a fork or use fish puree, which is now on the shelves in a large assortment.

Fish puree is produced according to the high requirements of baby food and is thoroughly tested. It contains no artificial additives, only spices, salt, fish, cream and vegetables. Therefore, you can be sure of its quality and feel free to give it to a child from 8 months.

At what age can children eat salted fish? Not earlier than three years, and in small quantities. It is best to cook fish in stew, steam or boil fish broth. But fried fish can only be eaten after 5 years. Even later, you should accustom the child to smoked fish.

What fish products should not be offered to children

  • All kinds of canned food made from sprats, sprats or herring, even for adults, should be eaten in limited quantities. Especially for children, we choose something more dietary.
  • Semi-finished products from fish raw materials and "crab" sticks from minced fish - we exclude surrogates from the children's menu.
  • Dietitians advise to give smoked fish only to older children.
  • Exotic fish, as well as seafood - due to the high sensitivity of the children's digestive system.
  • Caviar, as it is too greasy for small children.
  • A fish that does not give you confidence in its freshness.

Ponomareva Nina Dmitrievna

Pediatrician of the highest category ON CLINIC

If we talk about the beginning of feeding fish to children, then officially this is allowed after eight months. Preference is given to river fish. But when we, pediatricians, consider the introduction of complementary foods for a child with fish, we approach it very individually.

Sometimes the introduction of fish into the diet can be delayed up to two years.

For example, in cases where there are allergies in the family or the child is allergic, then we introduce fish into the diet later to reduce the risks of allergic reactions. But, in any case, it is not recommended to start giving the child fish on your own.

You still need to consult a pediatrician, as there are cases when a child has an intolerance to fish protein from childhood.

If there are no contraindications, it is usually recommended to start giving fish meat to a child 1-2 times a week, and not separately, in small pieces, but mashed fish on the tip of a spoon, mixing it with vegetable puree.

What is the best fish for children?

Fish This is one of the most important foods for children as it provides essential nutrients for development and growth during childhood. However, not all types of fish are equally recommended for children . Knowing which fish is best for kids will help you put together a healthier kids meal plan.

Although it is a very healthy food, different types of fish contain nutrients and substances that can be harmful at different stages of life. A striking example is the case of large fish, since contain large amounts of mercury and other metals heavy. These substances are dangerous both in childhood and during pregnancy.

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In addition to the type of fish, it is important to consider aspects such as bones when choosing the best variety. All of this can make it difficult to buy the best fish for kids. That's why we help you choose the best options with these tips.


  • 1 White fish or blue fish?
  • 2 Best fish for kids
  • 3 Be very careful with fish bones

White fish or blue fish?

It is often doubted whether white or blue fish is better for baby food. This is very normal, since many people do not know how to distinguish well which fish is blue and which is white. Something logical, because there are many types of fish. However, the most consumed fish is easier to identify for example:

  • Bluefish : Among the most consumed bluefish are sardines, anchovies, saltwater fish, swordfish, salmon, tuna, mackerel, mackerel and pomfret. Among the blue fish, there are some varieties that are considered bold, such as sea bass, sea bream, sea bream, trout or mullet.
  • White fish : hake, cod, rooster sea bream, halibut or monkfish.

The best fish for children

Pediatricians recommend eating white fish during the first months of weaning. That is, from about 6 or 9months and when introduced into the diet, it is preferable to start with easily digestible fish such as hake or rooster. The recommended amount of fish for this first step is 3-4 servings per week .

It is also recommended to replace one of these fish moves with one of the blue fish, always choosing a small one because it is more nutritionally balanced, such as sardines or anchovies. Of course, in very small quantities and very carefully with spikes. From the age of 3 children can eat any fish. , albeit with a larger restriction on the big blue fish.

Therefore, the best fish for children is one that provides them with high quality protein. How is omega-3 an essential fatty acid that the body does not synthesize itself.

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