You already know that fish is a healthy food, full of heart-boosting, brain-building omega-3 fatty acids, but here's another good reason to help your tot develop a taste for it: Babies between 6 months and 1 year who eat fish have a 36 percent lower risk of developing asthma later in life, according to a large-scale study of more than 7,000 infants published in the journal Pediatrics. “This six-month window may be a time when a child's immune system is being programmed, and nutrients found in fish—omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D—could influence this process,” says lead study author Jessica C. Kiefte-de Jong, Ph.D., a pediatric epidemiologist in the Netherlands.
“Fish's soft, chewable texture makes it a great first food,” says registered dietitian Karen Ansel, author of The Baby and Toddler Cookbook and a member of Parenting's advisory board. Opt for boneless and skinless fish, like canned salmon or U.S.-raised tilapia. Start with a puree of fish and a little vegetable broth. As they get older, serve small pieces of broiled fish or fold it into macaroni and cheese or pasta dishes. And be sure to avoid fish high in mercury: swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel.