Today’s post by guest blogger Christen Cooper, MS, RD
I love seafood. And despite my kids’ general food pickiness, they like seafood, too. When my son was two, he was the only toddler exclaiming “Mmm!” instead of “Wow!” at the local aquarium.
Americans have become skeptical about the safety of seafood, and with good reason. Numerous pollutants have found their way into ocean ecosystems, as well as lakes and streams. My family likes to fish, but we have yet to eat our catch because we are not certain about the condition of our favorite pond.
How does one discern which seafood is safe and which is potentially dangerous? My rule of thumb is to eat seafood when I am somewhere where seafood is “local,” namely, the beach. I figure that a restaurant that stays afloat by catering to a seasonal crowd would not risk its business by serving unsafe food. When I buy fish at the supermarket, I try to follow the “wild caught” rule, avoiding fish that is farmed that may may contain higher than recommended levels of mercury. Pregnant women should carefully follow the FDA’s recommendations about the types and amounts of seafood that are safe for them.
Unlike most foods that are “fatty,” such as fried foods, the fat in fish is largely healthful. In fact, with some seafood, the fattier, the better! Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to lower the risk for heart disease, to support eye and brain health and to help to elevate mood in some individuals. In fact, the latest research on omega-3 fatty acids seems to indicate that seafood, rather than fish oil supplements, is the most potent omega-3 source.
Seafood also contains respectable amounts of protein. Mahi-Mahi, for example, contains 20 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving, and salmon contains 20 to 23 grams. Impressively, this great nutrition comes at a calorie bargain. Mahi-Mahi has 90 calories per serving, and lobster contains 80 calories.
Cholesterol is a potential nutritional bugaboo in seafood, with many fish and shellfish containing up to 25% of the recommended daily value. Seafood eaters should keep this in mind, balancing out other daily meals with lower cholesterol foods. Try to keep fish dishes simple and “light” by grilling fish rather than cooking it in buttery or oily sauces. Enjoy the taste of the fish itself. Also, buy fish when its fresh. It’s only when fish begins to age that it emits the characteristic unpleasant odor.
How do you get the family to eat fish and seafood more often (two times a week is recommended for good health)?
- Keep it simple. Don’t cover fish with heavy sauces. Let the natural flavor speak for itself.
- Serve fish often and order it when you dine out, especially when at the beach.
- Take kids fishing. Just as growing veggies makes kids interested in trying plant foods, fishing can pique interest in eating seafood.
- Tell the family that fish is brain food, muscle food and mood food!