How easy is it to eat more seafood weekly?

Mon 8th January 2018
Cj Jackson770X600

How many portions of seafood have you enjoyed this week?

Being healthy is not only all about what you eat, but also your lifestyle. It’s a partnership for life.  We all know what we should and shouldn't eat. We all know that we should have at least five portions of fruit and veg a day, drink lots of water, cut back on saturated fat, and get plenty of regular exercise.

But the message that we all need to remember now is that we should all be enjoying (not just eating) at least two portions of seafood a week. That’s the recommendation from health professionals, and actually, I think it should be a lot more than that! Now winter is creeping up on us – it is even more important.

But with modern life and the tearing around that we all do, it is easy to let good intentions slip. I am a busy working mum with a fussy family to cater for, and like most, I have a budget to stick to! I try to grow my own vegetables and I take so much pleasure from cooking and eating them. I also work at Billingsgate Market, so I am completely spoilt for choice when it comes to seafood for me and my family – it is quite possible to eat two portions of seafood a day.

Fish 2 A Week Logo

But with modern life and the tearing around that we all do, it is easy to let good intentions slip. I am a busy working mum with a fussy family to cater for, and like most, I have a budget to stick to! I try to grow my own vegetables and I take so much pleasure from cooking and eating them. I also work at Billingsgate Market, so I am completely spoilt for choice when it comes to seafood for me and my family – it is quite possible to eat two portions of seafood a day.

However I also struggle to get my family to enjoy fruit and vegetables and also seafood. So like other families, I try to smuggle all of the above into family meals in the hopes that they will be consumed without many questions asked. If given a choice, my family would live on pasta and meat, although canned fish features highly in my teenage son’s life.

Making sure you get what you need requires some planning! If I don’t plan a week ahead we end up eating whatever we fancy and that is not economical or sensible as we end up eating the wrong balance of food groups.

So why two portions of seafood a week?

If you are looking at enjoying a low fat diet – cod, haddock, plaice, and seabass are all options. If you are trying to reduce your bad cholesterol levels and increase the good, mackerel, herring and sardines have all omega-3 that helps get the balance right.

Unlike meat or poultry, there is a massively diverse range of seafood species to enjoy, so it is impossible to get bored. Fish and shellfish contain protein, lots of trace minerals, calcium, and high levels of omega-3 and Vitamin D in oily fish. Omega-3 is known to help brain development and concentration levels in children, and also to support and prevent the effects of ageing, raised levels of cholesterol, potential heart disease, and stiff joints. We are also being told that enjoying seafood as part of a healthy diet helps prevents that middle-aged spread!

We are also heading into the winter months and many of us don’t see much sunshine at this time of the year. Vitamin D is essential for our health and we usually get that with exposure to sunshine.  However, another natural source of Vitamin D comes from oily fish such as mackerel, herring, tuna, and sardines.   

Mussels are also known to be good sources linked to vitamin D and they are best quality during the winter and fantastically inexpensive. So it’s a great time to have a go at making a Moules Mariniere. Quick and simple!

9D8Ccfcf596C697C2Aea049Bd077B8C8

How can we ensure that we include seafood regularly?

Making sure it gets onto your shopping list is a good start. I also eat it between meals too! Firstly, stock up on cans of fish and jars of seafood – and think Vitamin D and calcium. I always have cans of mackerel and spicy tomato sauce and other flavours. I love mackerel and it contains a large amount of omega-3.

Mackerel does have a stronger taste and I ‘tone down’ the flavour by adding other tastes – my quick family recipe goes as follows.  For two people, I break up the contents of one or two cans of mackerel with a fork and then toss into cooked pasta, with fresh chopped tomatoes, peas and Greek yoghurt with seasoning. This doesn’t fail to please and it’s quick.

Sardines are high in calcium as well as omega-3 and taste delicious. Here are a few recipes that are simple to make and taste great.

Mediterranean Sardines 580 270 Posh sardines on toast

Jars of pickled mussels or cockles are excellent, low-fat snacks and something I enjoy when I’m at a low ebb at tea time and before supper. It’s that time of the night when it is easy to reach for the biscuit tin!

I also mash up smoked mackerel with fromage frais, loads of horseradish for a good kick and a little lemon – another snack to keep the wolf from the door!

Another top tip for having fish in the house is to stock up on frozen seafood. Frozen fish retains its flavor wonderfully well and you can get it out of the freezer when you need it. There's a good selection of fish available and something you can rely on for fishcakes and fish pie. Smoked fish and shellfish all freeze well. I have smoked haddock in the freezer ready for an easy smoked haddock omelet for breakfast.

Have you ever tried to make your own fish fingers?

Everybody loves a fish finger sandwich – they are delicious! Try making your own using fish fillets and make your own. Here’s a recipe to help!

Homemade fish fingers

I always have a bag or two of frozen cold water, cooked shell on prawns in the freezer. They make for a quick supper meal – peel the prawns and use the shells to make a quick stock with water and lemon. Soften chopped onion and garlic in some vegetable oil, add two cups of easy cook rice, stir together. Stir in four cups of strained prawn stock – cover and cook slowly until the stock has been absorbed. Season well, add some chopped herbs if you have any, and then stir the peeled prawns in to heat up. To stretch this meal a little further, add some chopped hard-boiled eggs.

Cooking on a budget? Cans and frozen fish are very cost effectives and means you've always got something to turn to. Salmon and cod are the two biggest sellers of fresh fish, but there's plenty of fish in the sea!

There are all of the above and also coley, plaice, lemon sole, squid, sea bass and bream. Choose a couple of these over the next month, include a portion of cod, haddock or pollock and chips, and you've hit your target for the month without a second thought. And you haven’t eaten the same fish twice! Then you can say you and your family have eaten your two portions of seafood a week!

If you are short on confident in the cooking of seafood, ask your fishmonger or fish counter staff for some tips, and good luck!

CJ Jackson – CEO at The Seafood School at Billingsgate