How to implement healthy fish recipes in your clean eating?
What are the best fish to eat to support your clean eating habits? This week, I will give you some tips for simple and clean eating fish recipes you can enjoy without guilt.
Are you looking for a healthy 80:20 approach that incorporates seafood? Remember: fish supplies your body with ever-important omega-3 fatty acids that your body cannot produce on its own. But could environmental pollutants cancel out that benefit?
Further, you might want to take into consideration the global overfishing phenomenon as well…
Benefits of eating fish in general
First of all, fish supplies high-quality protein that our body can digest easily. The tender meat also contains important vitamins and minerals, like the bone-friendly vitamin D. Salt water fish delivers the needed iodine for our thyroid gland.
Fatty fish types, like herring or salmon, are rich in the above mentioned long chain omega-3 fatty acids that are especially valuable. So it should not come as surprise that nutrition experts recommend the consumption of at least one to two 3-ounce servings (90-180 g) of fatty fish per week.
But what kinds of healthy fish can you eat without guilt?
Unfortunately, there is a massive overfishing problem globally. That means that people are taking far more fish out of the ocean than it can sustainably support. Therefore, some fish types are threatened with extinction and put on the red list… Otherwise…As a result of the rigorous U.S. management process, fish harvested in the U.S. is inherently sustainable.
A good sign is the blue MSC “eco-label” – Marine Stewardship Council. With this logo, the organization recognizes and rewards farms with sustainable fishing practices. This label is, however, only valid for wild fish, not for farmed fish from aquacultures.
How healthy is farmed fish?
Farmed fish contains a lower ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, lower levels of protein and higher levels of total fat. On top of that, aquacultures frequently use antibiotics, fungicides or even dyes. If unsure, I highly recommend to opt for “organic” farmed fish with an eco-label.
Salmon is among the healthiest and best fish to eat
Here is how you can avoid eating fish with too many pollutants. To make your life as easy as possible, I’ve already made a pre-selection for you. If you want to implement clean, healthy fish recipes in your weekly meal plan, just stick mainly with salmon. It meets two important criteria: It is the lowest in mercury and the highest in omega-3 levels. Wild Alaskan salmon generally has very low levels of toxins.
Farmed salmon from Norway tends to be of better overall quality too. Further, salmon is pretty easy to prepare and it is versatile enough to create many delicious, clean eating fish recipes.
Baby Steps: How to incorporate a healthy fish meal in your week
Below is a simple 3-step habit change that will help you automate your healthy fish consumption. Use your weekly meal planning as a trigger.
- Research some simple clean eating salmon recipes or other low risk seafood recipes (see alternatives below). When cooking seafood, always opt for lean preparation methods, like steaming, sautéing, baking, grilling, boiling or pouching. I especially love baked fish recipes, grilled fish tacos or fish soup. Another yummy idea is to add salmon (or other healthy fish) to a big salad instead of the typical chicken breast or mini-steaks. Eat fish only natural without bread coating, crust or fatty sauce.
- Include one healthy low risk, clean eating fish dish in your meal plan once per week. Write down any ingredients you need for your fish recipe on your customized shopping list.
- Write down any ingredients you need for your healthy fish meal on your customized shopping list.
Healthy Salmon Alternatives
As always- variation is key! Anchovies, herrings or sardines are other great options for low risk seafood. You could toss each of them over an easy salad mix.
If your weekly intake of fish stays fairly restricted you might want to vary sometimes with the affordable “medium mercury” cod fish. Click here for a Clean Eating Cod Fish Recipe.
And what about tuna?
Canned tuna is the so-cheap-its-crazy source of protein but not among my selection of best fish to eat although we would have some room to include it with our 80/20 clean eating approach. I’ve even published an easy recipe: tuna casserole with zoodles
To avoid too much mercury, try to replace it with canned salmon from time to time as it is an even more potent source of those crucial fatty acids (and it has less mercury).
Tip: Aldi offers affordable wild caught canned Alaskan salmon.
Which seafood you should avoid
Typical mercury bombs are marlin, king mackerel, swordfish, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, ahi tuna, filefish, and bigeye.
Best fish to eat – Check the most up to date data
Are you concerned about mercury and other contaminants in your seafood? Check the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) website for the most up-to-date data regarding contaminant levels of seafood in your region.
How to recognize fresh fish
That’s easy: fresh fish doesn’t smell! It may have a subtle odor, but it must in no case smell overly fishy or rancid. The bad smell associated with fish is provoked by substances that result partly from the dismantling of protein. The longer the fish is stored, the more protein is decomposed. If you are buying a whole fish, please pay attention at the following signs of freshness:
- The eyes should be clear, not milky
- The skin should be shining and covered by a transparent coating
- The gills should be light red, not brownish
It is much harder to evaluate a filet. A fresh filet shines, doesn’t smell and doesn’t show any yelllowish, frayed edges.
Tip: Prepare your fish the day you have bought it.
Is frozen fish healthy too?
Absolutely. The fish I buy most often is frozen: wild caught Alaskan salmon. Often, fishermen gut their catches directly on board the same day and freeze it.
In that case, the frozen fish is of excellent quality. The only caveat – it might be a bit more firm than the fresh variation. Remember to defreeze your filet in your fridge!
Money saving tip at Wholefoods: You can save over 50% when you skip the fresh fish counter and purchase instead the Whole Catch frozen wild Alaskan sockeye salmon.
Are you vegan or vegetarian?
You may want to get your omega-3s from phytoplankton. This is a single celled algae that floats in the ocean.
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Share with us below your thoughts regarding your best fish to eat or your favorite clean eating fish recipes!