Pollock, the fish in most fish sticks, is nutritious and low in mercury. But are fish sticks okay for babies?
Fresh or frozen pollock may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. However, processed fish sticks (which typically are made from pollock) often contain added sodium, sugar, refined oils, and GMO corn—additives that, in our professional opinion, are inappropriate for babies.
So when can babies eat fish sticks?
The answer ultimately lies with the brand of fish stick and ingredients. For example, Gorton’s, a common brand of frozen fish sticks contains more than 400mg of sodium per serving and the following ingredients:
Alaska Pollock fillets, breadcrumb coating, vegetable oil. (Breadcrumb coating includes wheat flour, water, yellow corn flour, sugar, salt, onion powder, whey, yeast, baking powder (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, cream of tartar), natural flavor.
Okay let’s look at a more expensive brand, Dr. Praegers, which contains 180 mg sodium and the following ingredients:
Alaskan Pollock Fillets (Wild), Breading (Unbleached Wheat Flour, Corn Starch, Yellow Corn Flour, Salt, Sugar, Yeast, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Spices, Dextrose), Expeller Pressed Canola Oil.
Definitely better on the sodium front, but still not great.
Next up: Kidfresh fish sticks. Also contains 180mg sodium per serving and the following ingredients:
Pollock, Batter [water, wheat flour, chickpea flour, corn starch, garlic powder, salt, onion powder, leavening (cream of tartar, baking soda), whole wheat flour, celery seed, natural flavor], non-gmo expeller pressed canola oil, Bread Crumbs (whole wheat flour, yeast, molasses, sea salt).
Loving the Non-GMO canola oil (but let’s face it, canola oil is canola oil).
Okay, one more. Let’s look at Ian’s brand, which has 170 mg sodium per serving and the following ingredients:
Whole-Fillet Alaska Pollock Coated with Cornflake Crumbs (Milled Corn, Cane Sugar, Sea Salt) Water Yellow Corn Flour Corn Starch Sea Salt Garlic Powder Baking Powder Cooked in Non-GMO Expeller Pressed Canola Oil
Again, loving the non-GMO commitment (though I wonder if the corn is GMO…) Also loving that there’s no sugar and that they are a bit lower in sodium as well. This is probably the brand I would buy.
Bottom line: There is no processed fish stick that we can proclaim as “healthy” for babies. So if you can swing it, try your hand at making them at home (see our recipe for fish sticks) and save processed foods like fish sticks and chicken nuggets for emergencies after age 2.