Seaweed may sound like an exotic food to serve to children, but given a chance, they may come to enjoy it. Some children are adventurous in their eating habits, so might like to try it, while others might need some cajoling or persuasion. Serving a dish that includes seaweed to children introduces them to other cultures and to a whole new class of foods that can benefit their health.
Edible seaweed is available in more than 21 varieties, and it is one of the most nutritious foods you can serve your children. The most commonly available varieties of seaweed include nori, laver, kelp, dulse and wakame. Nori is naturally low in fat, a good source of lean protein, and high in vitamin A, vitamins B1 and B2, vitamin C, and iodine. Wakame has properties that may help to protect against diabetes. Dulse is rich in protein and is a good source of magnesium, iron and beta carotene.
Some varieties of seaweed, such as dulse, are delicious rinsed and served raw in salads. Simmer kelp until it is tender, then serve it as a savory side dish, much as you would serve cooked spinach. Dried sheets of seaweed such as nori or laver are simple to prepare as a crispy snack chip suitable to serve children. Just brush the sheets of dried untoasted seaweed with a light coating of olive oil and bake them in a single layer at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. After the sheets have cooled, break them apart and serve them as you would chips.
Tips for Getting Children to Eat Seaweed
If your children are picky eaters, don't despair. While you don't want to deceive your children, telling young kids that they are eating a special kind of chip from the sea might appeal to their sense of adventure. Older children may be more difficult to persuade. In that case, making the seaweed seem sophisticated or adult-like might appeal to their desire to be grown up. If all else fails, integrate the seaweed with another dish, such as by sprinkling crushed dried seaweed on their savory chicken soup or on top of a salad with their favorite ranch dressing. They may be surprised to find that they like it.
Many varieties of seaweed have been used through the ages by various cultures for medicinal purposes, and they are available in tablet or capsule form in health food stores. Kelp capsules are sold as natural iodine supplements, for example. Some seaweeds are thought to inhibit the cold virus or even fight cancer, according to botanist Michael Dominic Guiry, Ph.D. More research must be conducted to validate some of the claims about seaweed, however. Consult your pediatrician before you add a nutritional supplement to your child's diet.