You can offer fish to your baby as early as 6 months of age, reports pediatrician Frank Greer on the BabyCenter website. Tuna is an excellent choice because it’s packed with nutrients. Canned tuna fish is easy to serve and a healthy option for your child, but don’t feed him fish every day because it contains mercury, which could pose a health risk to your little one. Fish is also a common allergen in children, so beware of any signs of an allergy and speak to your pediatrician if you’re concerned.
Benefits of Tuna Fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are a vital part of your child’s brain and eye development. Few foods provide your child with omega-3 fatty acids, and your body best absorbs them through foods rather than supplements. Canned tuna contains 0.17 to 0.24 gram of omega-3s per 3-ounce serving, or 24 percent to 34 percent of the recommended amount. Tuna fish is also low in saturated fat and rich in high-quality protein and other essential nutrients, including B vitamins, phosphorous and niacin.
Mercury is a toxin that enters oceans and streams and becomes methylmercury. Fish absorb methylmercury, and your body absorbs it when you eat fish. How much you absorb depends upon the levels of mercury in the fish you’re eating. Larger fish tend to have higher amounts than smaller fish, and toxins are generally more potent in babies and toddlers. Mercury acts as a neurotoxin by potentially damaging your child’s brain and developing nervous system. According to MedlinePlus, methylmercury poisoning is believed to cause a form of cerebral palsy. Symptoms include deafness, blindness, small head circumference and poor growth.
Limit your 1-year-old’s intake of chunk light tuna to two servings a week and albacore tuna to one serving a week. A serving size for a 1- to 2-year-old is 1 ounce. Albacore is a larger fish, so it has a higher mercury content than the skipjack fish used to make chunk light tuna. Check the label for chunk light tuna, though, because sometimes it’s made with yellowfin, which is higher in mercury. Don’t completely eliminate albacore tuna from your child’s diet. It contains more omega-3s than chunk light tuna, so there is a nutritional benefit to serving your child albacore tuna from time to time.
Fish is on the list of top allergenic foods in babies and young children. If you have a history of family allergies, speak with your pediatrician before feeding tuna to your child. Don’t introduce any other new foods on the day you introduce fish and watch out for signs of an allergy. Symptoms include swelling, wheezing, vomiting and diarrhea. If you notice anything, call your doctor immediately.
- BabyCenter: When Can My Baby Eat Fish?
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Essential Fatty Acids
- American Heart Association: Fish 101
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish
- BabyCenter: Should Your Kids Eat Fish?
- MedlinePlus: Methylmercury Poisoning
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Fish, Tuna, Light, Canned in Water, Drained Solids