Old Enough for Sushi?

Dear Mamas,
My husband and I enjoy eating sushi on a regular basis, and we’re wondering when we can introduce it to our daughter, who’s just over a year old. When is it safe?

Cravin’ Crunchy Roll

Dear Cravin’,

We understand your love of sushi — we like it, too — but there are some problems for your toddler.

First, the official food safety stuff. Raw fish can harbor bacteria and children under age 5 are considered especially susceptible to foodborne illness. Young children — along with pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems – are advised by the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition to avoid raw fish or shellfish. So we would wait until at least age 5 before introducing raw-fish sushi.

Fish provides high-quality protein, as well as healthful omega-3 fats, but raw fish can also contain high levels of chemical contaminants, including methylmercury. Mercury occurs naturally in the environment, but is also a by-product of pollution that enters oceans and lakes. When it gets into the water, mercury gets converted into methylmercury and builds up in fish. Too much methylmercury in the bloodstream can damage the developing nervous system in fetuses, infants, and young children.

So here’s the compromise. Feel free to share the sushi rolls that contain only cooked fish or vegetables, and save the raw for later. California roll (crab, avocado, carrots) and a wide variety of veggie options fill the bill, as do the fried shrimp and other choices. Experiment — just make sure there’s no raw stuff involved.

And, by the way … watch out for that wasabi … it may make her head explode!

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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?

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One response to “Old Enough for Sushi?”

  1. Kim Hasay

    Hi Rachel,
    Finally!!! I am now exploring your website for the first time since you gave me your card when I saw you at Frog’s…I LOVE IT! Extremely informative and very interesting…Will definitely pass it on to others…Hope all is well with you…Maybe we will see you soon:)

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