When I was about five years into my Real Food journey, a friend was raving about the health benefits of sardines. Sardines? For real?
I mean, I had tried liver (not my thing). I had tried numerous healing diets and really expanded my palate, going from a long-standing cereal-for-breakfast obsession to eating soup, veggies, and meat instead. I enjoyed plenty of fish.
But sardines? Those strange, tiny fish? I wasn’t sure I could get on board with sardines.
But after all my other food experiments, I figured why not give them a try? And you know what? Sardines are one of my absolute favorite nutrient-dense foods now!
Three out of four of my kids really enjoy them too! The other tolerates them in small amounts without complaint – I call that a win.
There really are so many reasons to love sardines. So I’m here to put your mind at ease about this tasty little fish and share some ways to add it to your family’s diet – even if you have picky eaters!
What Do Sardines Taste Like?
Let’s start with the big question everyone wants to know – what do sardines taste like?
In short, they taste like fish!
While the smell is a bit stronger, the taste is actually very mild. Sardines are not nearly as fishy as tuna.
Considering their size, sardines are quite meaty and have great texture.
Do All Sardines Taste the Same?
I must caution you – not all sardines are created equally. Brand and variety definitely matter!
Look for sardines that are sustainably caught. My favorite brand (and the only one we use for both quality and flavor) is Wild Planet.
Sardines actually come in different flavors. No, not fruity or chocolate. They are packaged in different oils and sauces. You can get sardines in oil with lemon or even in tomato sauce.
If you are trying sardines for the first time, don’t dismiss them after one taste. Try a few brands and flavors to see what your family enjoys.
What Are the Health Benefits of Sardines?
Sardines may be small, but they pack a punch of nutrition! Sardines are a great source of:
- Healthy Omega-3 fats (1 serving of Wild Planet sardines contains 1800mg EPA and DHA.) These are essential fatty acids that the body cannot make.
- Calcium – Sardines are a great source of calcium for kids that don’t tolerate dairy.
- Complete animal protein (1 serving of Wild Planet sardines contains 18g of protein.) This is a high purine protein that is perfect for fast oxidizers who need a higher fat content (this includes most young kids – but if you’d like to find out if your child is a fast oxidizer, learn more about Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis HERE).
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Should Kids Eat Sardines?
Unless your child is allergic to fish, sardines make a great addition to his or her diet! When eaten once or twice a week, sardines provide essential fatty acids and complete protein.
In addition, sardines are easy to eat! Canned sardines are so soft that they can be mashed very easily, which makes a great first foods option for babies 6 months and older!
By introducing them early, you will help shape your child’s palate to enjoy this healthy fish long-term.
As an added bonus, you can stock your pantry with sardines so you have a healthy option on hand at all times. Even if you are a sleep-deprived mom of little ones. There is no prep work involved! Just open and enjoy.
What Are the Best Ways to Eat Sardines?
Even if your kids are older, you can still successfully introduce sardines!
My kids and I enjoy them plain. When I open a can, I just put a whole sardine on everyone’s plate to go with their lunch. Simple!
But not every child will be on board that quickly.
Here are some other great ways to enjoy sardines – even if you have a picky eater.
- Lightly dredged in flour and pan fried with butter or the olive oil from the sardine can. Fried sardines can be served plain, with homemade tartar sauce, or as a salad topper. My non-sardine-loving kid said they weren’t so bad pan fried!
- Mashed and mixed into salmon salad, egg salad, or chicken salad.
- Mixed into pasta dishes.
- Homemade Caesar salad dressing – use sardines in place of anchovies.
- Top a cracker with cream cheese and mashed sardine.
- Mixed into hummus and served with crackers or veggies.
Are Sardines Healthy?
That’s a resounding yes! Sardines are tiny fish that pack a big punch with omega-3 fats, calcium, and complete protein. This means you don’t have to eat a large quantity to get the health benefits (good news for the kids hesitant to eat sardines).
Great for babies, kids, teens, and adults, sardines should be a pantry staple for every Real Food family!
If you are new to sardines, make it a family experiment try a few varieties, flavors, and preparation methods. You might enjoy them so much you’ll wonder why you never tried them before!
Do you have sardine-loving kids? What is your favorite way to eat sardines?