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Is Tilapia Healthy?

With a pleasantly firm, flaky texture and mild flavor, tilapia is an easy-to-love fish that should satisfy even picky eaters. It's also extremely good for you. Tilapia comes packed with protein and supplies a few crucial micronutrients, and it's low in mercury as well.

Experiment with healthy seasoning combinations to expose your kids to new flavors, helping expand their culinary horizons and nourish their bodies at the same time.

Low-Calorie Lean Protein

If you're looking for lots of high-quality protein sans the high calorie count found in some other fish and meats, tilapia is a great choice. Each 3-ounce fillet has just 110 calories and supplies 22 grams of protein, which means protein accounts for about 80 percent of its calories. The protein in tilapia is considered "complete," meaning it provides every amino acid you need to get from your diet. It will support your workouts by helping to maintain lean muscle, support your child's active lifestyle and support both of your immune systems – a must for when a cold is going around at your child's school. Tilapia is naturally free of carbohydrates, and each fillet has just 2.5 grams of fat, so it can work in low-carb and low-fat diets.

Choline and B-12 for Brain Health

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Most fish has a well-deserved reputation as "brain food," and tilapia's vitamin B-12 and choline content makes it great for your nervous system. Vitamin B-12 plays a crucial role in keeping your nerves healthy – deficiencies in this nutrient can actually cause irreversible nerve damage in some cases – and it's also important for healthy oxygen circulation. Choline, a nutrient that's similar to an essential vitamin, supports healthy brain cell communication and also plays a role in cognitive functioning, which means it supports learning, memory and problem solving – all great for school!

Each fillet of tilapia has 1.5 micrograms of vitamin B-12 and 42 milligrams of choline. That supplies two-thirds of your B-12 needs and 10 percent of your choline needs for the day. That amount could also cover your child's entire B-12 requirements and up to 22 percent of their daily choline, depending on their age.

Fish Oil and Tilapia

Tilapia is a very lean fish, which is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to nutritional benefits. The low fat content keeps the calories low, but it also means you're missing out on the healthful omega-3 fatty acids found in fattier fish, like salmon. An entire fillet of tilapia has just 0.1 gram of DHA and EPA, the omega-3s found in fish oil, while a 3-ounce serving of chinook salmon has 1.4 grams. The lack of DHA and EPA doesn't make tilapia unhealthy, but it does mean you shouldn't count on tilapia to reap the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, including a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and better cognitive function. Make sure you're including fatty fish, like salmon, in your diet as well to help your family get the most health benefits.

Serving Healthy Tilapia

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Even a healthy, lean fish like tilapia can turn unhealthy if you bread and fry it, so it's important to use healthy cooking techniques. Season your fish with fresh lemon juice, black pepper, cayenne or your own DIY spice mixes to add a fresh burst of flavor sans sugar or fat. Stick to cooking methods that don't require much oil, like poaching, steaming, grilling, baking or broiling, and don't top your fish with store-bought sauces that could be packed with calories. Mix it up by topping your fish with homemade salsas – like one made from chopped peaches, red peppers and fresh mint – to embrace seasonal flavor while adding more nutrients to your meal.