Protein and kids seem to have a love/hate relationship. Some kids love it and some kids hate it. Well, hate might be too strong a word. Some kids like it only if it looks like a chicken nugget or a fish stick.
The carnivores are pretty easy to please. They usually will eat at least a few bites of whatever protein you’re serving without too much coaxing. The nuggetvores can be a little trickier. Of course, you could just bread and fry all your meat in small pieces, but that doesn’t feel like much of a parenting victory, so other methods must be employed.
You could rely on other proteins — cheese, yogurt, beans, tofu, etc. — and, if you’re a family of vegetarians, that works great. I applaud any family that works to get their kids to eat less meat and more veggies. If you fall into this category, there’s no need to read any further.
If you eat meat and seafood, though, it’s not unrealistic to expect your kids to eat it, too, at least some of the time. So what do you do if they won’t?
From a young child’s perspective, it’s easy to understand why meat might be unappealing. The texture can be an issue. It’s often dry and dense and takes a good deal of chewing to get down. That kind of effort can feel overwhelming to a small child. So keeping the bites of meat small, or even serving crumbled ground meat, can help tempt a toddler into giving it a try.
Giving the kids something to dip the meat into can also be enticing. Dipping anything seems like fun, and it can make the protein go down a bit easier. Try your favorite low-fat salad dressing, tartar or barbecue sauce or the old standby, ketchup. Remember, once your child begins to be more open-minded about eating meat or seafood, you can back off some of the dips.
While seafood isn’t usually as dense as steak or chicken, it’s often overcooked and dry. In addition, it can often have a strong flavor, making it an even harder sell to kids. Sometimes masking the flavor a bit with a sauce or marinade can make it more palatable to young eaters.
Of course, breading the protein brings it right into the nuggetvore’s wheelhouse, but frying it isn’t the most healthful alternative. This recipe for Panko-Crusted Salmon With Herbed Yogurt Sauce solves that problem. In fact, it solves a few problems.
Salmon is coated with a mustard-mayo blend and topped with crispy panko breadcrumbs before being baked to perfection. Not overcooking it eliminates any unpleasant dry texture. Instead of serving it with a store-bought tartar sauce, it’s served with a creamy, easy-to-make yogurt sauce.
The combination of crispy, crunchy and creamy can be a powerful one to a young diner and if they see you enjoying it, they just might begin to enjoy it, too.
Panko-Crusted Salmon With Herbed Yogurt Sauce
Note: A crispy panko topping and creamy yogurt sauce make this moist and flavorful salmon dish family-friendly. Panko breadcrumbs are larger and lighter than the traditional breadcrumb. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1/2 c. low-fat plain Greek yogurt
• 1 tbsp. finely chopped Italian parsley
• 1 tbsp. finely chopped chives
• 3 tbsp. Dijon mustard, divided
• 1 tbsp. lemon juice
• 4 (6 oz.) salmon fillets (about 1 in. thick)
• 2 tbsp. low-fat mayonnaise
• 1/3 c. panko breadcrumbs (see Note)
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• 2 tsp. lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
• 1/4 tsp. salt
To make the sauce: Whisk yogurt, parsley, chives, 1 tablespoon mustard and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Set aside.
To prepare the salmon: Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the salmon fillets skin-side down on the paper. Pat the salmon fillets dry with a paper towel.
In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and remaining 2 tablespoons mustard. Spoon the mayonnaise mixture over the salmon, using the back of the spoon to spread it evenly and coat the surface of the salmon.
In another small bowl, combine the panko crumbs, olive oil, lemon zest and salt. Sprinkle the panko crumbs generously over the top of the salmon filets.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or about 4 minutes for every 1/2 inch of thickness, until the salmon is just done and the crumbs are lightly browned. Serve immediately.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 370 Fat 18 g Sodium 582 mg
Carbohydrates 7 g Saturated fat 4 g Total sugars 2 g
Protein 42 g Cholesterol 100 mg Dietary fiber 1 g
Exchanges per serving: ½ starch, 6 lean protein, 1 fat.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @meredithdeeds.