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Safe sushi choices for kids

Diana De Cicco is a food editor and writer based in New York City. She has a master's degree from New York University in Food Studies. Her passions are eating, traveling, and eating while traveling.

HEALTHY FINGER FOOD

There has been a lot of talk lately about the high mercury levels in seafood, including sushi. Children are especially susceptible to increased levels of pollutants in fish, but that does not mean you should keep them from consuming it. Seafood is a good source of protein, and fatty fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. If your kids dig sushi, there are ways to enjoy it without worrying about the mercury.

Sushi has become a popular finger food for children (and adults). However, if they eat too much of certain types of fish, they can be at risk for mercury poisoning. Pregnant women have always been advised to stay away from fish and other seafood because of the high levels of mercury and pollutants, which can have adverse effects on unborn babies. Because of the smaller size of their organs, children are particularly vulnerable, too.

HOW MERCURY GETS IN FISH

Mercury is a highly toxic metal that is found both naturally in the environment and produced by industrial processes. After mercury is produced, it enters the atmosphere, where it then falls to the ground or in bodies of water. Because of the large amount of industrial companies, mercury levels have significantly increased and continue to increase. When mercury falls into our oceans and lakes, fish ingest it. It continues to accumulate in their systems, which — in addition to their eating smaller fish who have also ingested mercury — results in larger fish containing more mercury.

HOW TO PREVENT MERCURY POISOINING

You may wonder if abstaining from fish is the only way for you and your children to avoid mercury toxicity. The good news is that there are low-mercury fish choices. In addition, if you consume the recommended two to three servings per week and eat a variety of lower mercury fish, you can safely enjoy this healthy food.

BETTER FISH CHOICES

The best kind of seafood for children and pregnant women to eat is small fish that are low on the food chain. Anchovies, artic char, Atlantic mackerel, wild Alaskan salmon (including canned), catfish, farmed shellfish, sardines, and farmed trout are all good choices. These fish are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. KidSafe Seafood suggests the healthiest fish for children to consume are wild Alaskan salmon, fresh tilapia, farmed blue mussels, shrimp from the northern United States (US) and Canada, US farmed crayfish, and farmed bay scallops. In addition, canned wild pink salmon and chunk light tuna have almost no mercury.

LIMIT THESE FISH

Do not let your children consume large amounts of larger fish such as swordfish, shark, and tuna. These fish can be eaten in very small amounts — no more than twice a month for adults and once a month for children — if eaten at all.

EAT LOCAL OR AT LEAST FROM A REPUTABLE SOURCE

Another way to ensure your children's fish intake is safe is to make sure they eat a variety of seafood and that the seafood comes from a reputable source. If possible, eat wild seafood — or farmed fish — that comes from the United States. There are also handy guides you can carry around that list healthy seafood choices so you know what to buy when you set out to make a purchase.

MAKE YOUR OWN SAFE SUSHI

If you feel uncomfortable taking your kids to eat sushi at restaurants, purchase low-mercury fish from a reputable source and make your own sushi at home. It is a great way for you and your kids to fix a delicious meal together. Here is a delectable and fun recipe courtesy of KidSafe Seafood to get you started.
Sushi

RECIPE

Wild Alaskan Smoked Salmon Sushi Roll

Ingredients:
2 cups Japanese sushi rice
6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
6 sheets nori (dry seaweed)
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
8 ounces smoked salmon, cut into long strips
2 tablespoons wasabi paste

Directions:
1. Soak rice for 4 hours. Drain rice and cook in a rice cooker with 2 cups of water. Rice must be slightly dry, as vinegar will be added later.
2. Immediately after rice is cooked, mix in 6 tablespoons rice vinegar to the hot rice. Spread rice on a plate until completely cool.
3. Place 1 sheet of seaweed on bamboo mat, press a thin layer of cool rice on the seaweed. Leave at least 1/2-inch top and bottom edge of the seaweed uncovered. This is for easier sealing later. Dot some wasabi on the rice. Arrange cucumber, avocado and smoked salmon to the rice. Position them about 1 inch away from the bottom edge of the seaweed.
4. Slightly wet the top edge of the seaweed. Roll from bottom to the top edge with the help of the bamboo mat tightly. Cut roll into 8 equal pieces and serve. Repeat for other rolls.

POCKET GUIDES FOR SAFE SEAFOOD


Environmental Defense Fund Seafood Selector
KidSafe Seafood Best Choices
Natural Resource Defense Council Guide to Mercury in Sushi

SUSHI TUTORIALS AND RECIPES


Sushi Monsters Sushi How-To
How to make a California sushi roll
  (video)
KidSafe Seafood Recipes and Tips

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