There are many nights where busy days get the better of you and creative dinner ideas run scarce. Chicken, beef, zoodle night, repeat. There’s only so many ways that you can make the same proteins and courses over and over again and keep them fresh and exciting.
But what’s fresher than fish?
Now, most folks face a dilemma when deciding to serve up the other, other white meat that is fish. Sure, our finned friends are notoriously low in fat and accompanied by notoriously healthy styles of preparation. However, fish also comes with a sturdy bad reputation for unsafe levels of mercury, plus a tendency to rapidly spoil. First, the facts…
While mercury itself isn’t incredibly toxic – even if you eat it, it doesn’t stay for long in your digestive tract – the dangers increase astronomically when you mix it with water. The microorganisms in water mix with it and become methyl mercury, which fast tracks its way into your blood stream. Pregnant women are at greater risk when it comes to this as the blood stream will carry the poison straight to the placenta and potentially to the brain and nervous system of your developing baby. Besides mercury, PCBs can also lurk in fish – industrial chemicals that can build up in your body and potentially cause scary health issues such as cancer.
It’s understandable why folks might be scared away entirely from fish as a whole. Knowing what seafood are high risk for mercury content is a safe way to feel better about your fishy foods. Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish and albacore tuna contain the highest reported levels of mercury, while canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, catfish, flounder and shellfish contain lower levels. As for the canned kind, go with the “canned light” variety as it contains a smaller breed of tuna called “skipjack” while “canned white” contains more albacore. Kiddos and pregnant women are advised by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to avoid eating those fish with the potential for the highest level of mercury contamination and eat up to 12 ounces (two average meals) per week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury. For middle-aged and older men and postmenopausal women, the benefits of eating fish far outweigh the potential risks when the amount of fish eaten is within the recommendations established by the FDA and Environmental Protection Agency.
Another problem with picking fish is the often debated “farm raised” or “wild” question. When given the choice – always go for wild. Farm raised fish contain more PCBs. The premise behind fish farming is to create as many fish as possible in as short a period of time as possible – you can imagine what kind of fish that type of life would breed. Besides this, farmed fish are kept in pools for their short lives that are chock full of antibiotics, pesticides, chemicals, and wastes – the equivalent of raw sewage. Plus, wild just tastes better. Go figure, right?
But what might be the biggest deterrent to weekly fish dinners is how long – or not long – fish keeps in the fridge. Most fish will spoil within 1-2 days of purchasing, with maybe an extra day for fattier kinds. Frankly, it’s probably best just to snag your fishies the day you plan on eating them. It’s definitely better than fast food, and a choice that will be world’s healthier and pretty much as easy to prepare as hitting the drive-through. Seriously!
The Good Stuff
With all the not-so-nice rumors surrounding the “chicken of the sea” there are plenty of good ones – and they’re true too! Fish are low in fat, low in unsaturated fat and cholesterol and high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for heart health. Also, omega 3s are GREAT for soon-to-be mommies which is why “safe seafood” is actually recommended for consumption about twice a week.
If time is what’s holding up your fish feast, the good news is that most seafood doesn’t require tons of seasoning to taste super yum. Ask your fish monger what’s fresh that day and he’ll most likely have some great suggestions for seasonings, or lemon, salt and pepper is a pretty winning combo on any variety.
I’ve got some suggestions for you on super quick ways to cook up your fish dinner below.
This works well with tilapia, sole, orange ruffy, or any mild white fish. Turn up the heat on the oven to 375. Lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and season the fish with salt, pepper, oregano, and maybe even a few capers. Toss some cherry tomatoes next to them and give the whole concoction a healthy squeeze of lemon and a splash of cooking wine. Fold the parchment into a packet and bake for 20 minutes. Serve with some steamed spinach, broccoli or asparagus. How easy is that? Plus practically NO clean up!
This one’s SCARY easy – you do it in your toaster oven! Awesome for hot nights when you just can’t bear to turn on your stove. Layer your toaster oven’s baking sheet with a piece of tin foil. Take a 4 ounce piece of salmon, season it with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, half a lemon and a little basil. Cook on high seven minutes each side. Done!
Also, fish like salmon and tuna hold up nicely on the grill and go easily over a beautiful baby arugula salad with no need for more than a lemon squeezed over the entire dish.
Boom, you’ve got your own fast food – hold the side of greasy fries.