Introducing new foods to children can be challenging. Shrimp in particular can be a hard sell because it looks, smells and tastes different than some of the foods they have usually enjoyed. However, if you are patient and maintain a positive attitude toward the experience, your child may surprise you and enjoy eating shrimp.
Planning the Meal
Plan a meal with the shrimp that will emulate some of their favorite textures. Shrimp can be clammy and have a slightly slimy feel to a child's fingers when it is served cold, so it is probably better to serve it hot. Serve the shrimp baked, grilled or fried to make the shrimp firm and palatable. Serve the shrimp with colorful vegetables, with their favorite salad dressing or with a sauce to make the meal more fun.
Introducing the Shrimp
Plan to serve your child the shrimp during a time when he is not busy or overstimulated. Children are less likely to eat when they are distracted by other children or television. Tell him that he is eating shrimp and answer any questions that he has about it in a matter-of-fact way. If he can tell that you are on pins and needles waiting to see if he likes the shrimp, he might take this as a cue that he shouldn't like the shrimp. Instead, act as if you are taking it for granted that he will enjoy it.
After the Meal
Talk to your child about other ways to eat shrimp, especially if she liked the meal. Get her excited about trying other meals that include shrimp. For example, if you served the shrimp with pasta, tell her how tasty shrimp can be on a crisp salad or baked with a crispy coconut coating. This will reinforce her good feelings about the meal and make her more likely to eat the shrimp without an argument the next time you prepare it.
If Your Child Doesn't Like the Shrimp
If he didn't like the shrimp or did not eat very much of it, don't make him feel badly about it. Try making the shrimp again but in a different way. Children often need to taste a new food more than once before they know if they like it. Even if he is sure that he didn't like it, he may like it in a few months, so don't be afraid to make the shrimp again later on.
Shrimp allergies are a potential problem that many parents worry about. Because this type of allergy typically presents itself in adulthood, it is generally safe for children over the age of 6 months to eat shrimp. However, if you have a family history of shellfish allergies, consult with your pediatrician before giving your child shrimp. If your child begins itching, breaks out into hives, has swelling in the lips or tongue or has difficulty breathing, go to the emergency room immediately.
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