Flourish with Food: The Med Approach to Fish & Seafood

Beginning in May, Flourish with Food has focused on the Mediterranean Diet (Med approach). Once again…. it’s an overall healthy way of eating inspired by the traditional eating patterns of people living in the Mediterranean region.   

Just a reminder that the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid depicting the region’s foods and how often they’re eaten is available at www.oldwayspt.org.  Getting closer to the pyramid’s foundation, this month’s feature is Fish & Seafood - Eat often, at least two times per week.

You may ask…what’s the difference between fish & seafood?  Seafood is any food from the sea.  Fish have a backbone, gills for breathing and fins for swimming. In comparison, shellfish have a hard shell that covers their body rather than a backbone. Thus, seafood includes both fish (salmon, tilapia, tuna) and shellfish (crab, shrimp, lobster).  However, the term “fish” is often used to mean both fish and shellfish.

“Fish” is a great source of high-quality protein and healthy omega-3 fats. While all fish contain some omega-3s, salmon, mackerel and sardines contain much more. Although fish is versatile and easy to cook, most adults eat less than the recommended 8 ounces total each week. 

Potential challenges: (1) taste, smell or texture issues, (2) short 1-2 days storage time between buying fresh and cooking, and (3) concerns related to mercury contamination, sustainability or how it’s caught.

For guidance related to sustainability: https://www.seafoodwatch.org   

For concerns related to mercury content: https://www.fda.gov/food/consumers/advice-about-eating-fish

For tips on how to buy and store fresh fish: https://www.allrecipes.com/article/how-to-choose-fresh-fish

Buying frozen and canned fish is often more practical and convenient than buying fresh.  

Frozen fish – often portion-sized - can be stored up to 8 months before the quality begins to fall off. Thawed pre-cooked frozen shrimp, served with a spicy cocktail sauce, is instant protein in a meal.

Canned and no-drain-pouch fish, such as tuna, salmon and sardines, have best-by dates often a couple years out. The single-serve pouch tuna and salmon are super convenient.  I especially like StarKist’s E.V.O.O. Wild Caught Pink Salmon (pouch) on top of a green salad. 

The fishiness and texture of canned fish varies by brand, grade, price, and water versus oil packed. For instance, solid white albacore tuna in water is often milder and doesn’t overwhelm other flavors in a dish. 

For a 2021 test kitchen’s review of tuna brands: https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/best-tuna-brands

Healthier Mediterranean Tuna Salad

2 (5 oz) cans chunk light tuna in water, drained

¼ c. finely chopped red onion

¼ c. chopped fresh parsley

3 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ tsp. lemon zest

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

  1. Combine tuna, onion and parsley in a medium bowl.
  2. Whisk oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper to make the dressing.  Toss with the tuna mixture.

Source: www.allrecipes.com Servings: 4

Really Easy Chowder

1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried basil

Salt and pepper, to taste

½ pound frozen cod fillets

  1. In a medium sized pot place undrained tomatoes, celery, oregano, basil, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Place frozen cod fillets in the pot.  Cook until mixture is heated through and fish is opaque and flaky.  Thin with a little water if desired.

Source: www.allrecipes.com Servings: 2-4

MLH idea:  For a Med Approach touch, add sliced black or kalamata olives, to taste.  Serve over rice for a main entrée.

About Mary Lynne Hixson, MA, RD:

Mary Lynne, a registered dietitian, helps others enhance their health through the advocacy of nutrient-rich food choices and safe food-handling practices. Her expertise also includes counseling patients who have Type 2 diabetes and advising those who are in medically-managed weight loss programs. After her 35+ year career, she retired and became involved with the launch of Harvest of Hope Pantry in 2012 as a Board of Directors member. Mary Lynne is a weekly volunteer with Cultivate’s Carry-Out Caravan program, shopping and delivering groceries to seniors in the Boulder area, and also a frequent volunteer with Harvest of Hope.