Sunday, 23 September 2012

STEPS 2 - Eat fish (or substitutes) at least once a week

I know a lot of people may want to turn off when they see this task - either due to having an allergy to fish/shellfish, or just disliking the taste.  Well, don't despair if that is you! I have alternatives that offer similar nutrition benefits, and for those of you who just don't like the taste of fish, hopefully over the next two weeks of the task, I can provide you with recipes and tips that will have you enjoying fish like never before!

So why do I think this task is important enough to include in the STEPS program?  Well, obviously the nutrition benefits are bountiful, some of which are these:

  • excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids - essential for brain, eye and heart health (omega 3 is found in all fish but particularly high in oily fish varieties such as tuna, salmon, trout and sardines)
  • low fat
  • high in protein (17-20%)
  • when the bones are eaten, fish is also a source of calcium and phosphorus
  • source of iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium, among other nutrients depending on the variety of fish

We don't eat enough fish in Australia.  According to this study Australians are eating just 25kg/year, trailing far behind countries such as Korea (54kg), Netherlands (52kg), Spain (41kg) and France (35kg).  Do you think you would eat 25kg of fish/year?
Although it is widely known that fish is healthy for us, the reasons behind this low consumption are not known.  Perhaps cost, availability, and/or an inept understanding on how to prepare fish are some of the barriers to purchase and consumption?

The current recommendations from the Australian Dietary Guidelines suggests eating fish at least twice a week so feel free if you are already eating fish regularly to strive for twice a week but for a lot of us, it will be beneficial to even start with once.

For me, growing up I never really liked fish and we didn't eat a lot of it.  My exposure to it was mainly when (on the rare occasion) we had takeaway fish and chips and battered flake was in the steaming hot newspaper parcel.  I felt it was quite a strong 'fishy' taste and never wanted more than a tiny bite!

It wasn't until I moved out and started shopping and cooking for myself that I began to experiment with this foreign food group.  

These days I actually love eating a 'fish dish', although I am still quite particular about which fish I cook with (and order at restaurants) and mostly we eat flathead tails and salmon fillets as I know I like these flavours!  I also love a good quality tinned tuna and try to eat at least one tin a week for lunch.

So task 2 will be eating fish at least once a week.  See my post here for the first recipe idea to kick off this task - with more to follow, both on my Facebook page and here.  And please do share your favourite ways to cook with and/or eat fish as I think we can all do with some serious inspiration in this area!

I tend to have our 'fish night' on a Sunday night, the same day I do our weekly shop so that the fish is as fresh as can be.  Lately it has consisted of fish 'nuggets' for my two boys, made by simply cutting a couple of flathead fillets up into bite sized pieces, dunking them into whisked egg, and then a mix of corn meal (polenta), plain gluten free flour, a garlic clove crushed, finely grated rind of a lemon and a sprinkle of good quality salt (I'm loving Himalayan Pink Salt at the moment!).  They love them!  SO much better than bought crumbed nuggets with god knows what in them!
For my hubby and I, its my thai salmon parcels!

Now that the weather is improving though, tonights fish done on the BBQ - just a light seasoning on the flathead fillet pieces for the boys and our salmon fillets I wrapped in seaweed sheets with a splatter of soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds on the salmon before wrapping and BBQing!  YUM!

Here are some other points I want to leave you with before we begin this task:

  •  For those of you allergic to fish or vegetarians/vegans - substitute fish for a couple of serves of walnuts, flaxseeds/linseeds, soy and canola oil.  These foods also contain omega 3.  Although plant sources of omega 3 aren't as easily absorbed by the body, they are still a source that your body will benefit from.
  • For those of you that feel cost is a barrier to purchase, think about how much you spend on a meal of chicken/beef/lamb.  Not all fish is expensive - actually quite comparable to other protein options, and cheaper than some of those.  It's probably more about just changing the mindset.
  • Fish can be frozen, and therefore you would only need to make the trip to a fish shop once every few weeks to purchase enough for multiple meals.  Having said that, you may be lucky enough that your local major supermarket that you shop at maintains a fresh stock of quality looking fish which then avoids a separate trip. 
  • If you are not a fish loving family, ask at the place of purchase for a mild tasting fish, purchase fillets so you dont have to worry about skinning and boning the fish, start with a recipe that 'hides' the flavour of the fish by using strong flavours, such as a fish curry, tomato pasta sauce or a meal like the nuggets idea above.
  •  If you are pregnant, intake of certain species of fish should be limited, due to the potential risk of excessive mercury intake. Pregnant women are advised to consume no more than one serve per fortnight of shark, marlin or broadbill/swordfish, and no other fish that fortnight, or one serve per week of orange roughy (deep sea perch) and no other fish that week.
  •  Remember, this program is a lifestyle change, not a diet.  Each of the tasks are designed to continue on when the next task begins, resulting in a sustainable lifestyle that incorporates many healthy eating choices.  By doing it bit by bit, each task will become a thoughtless action in your day/week, just as brushing your teeth and having a shower is! 
  • Make sure you have 'liked' mellymaks on facebook or twitter for regular tips and facts about fish in the coming two weeks, from me and hopefully some of you too!  Enjoy......


  1. I wish I knew how to cook fish properly. I scour for recipes but they always seem so complicated in the prep/cooking.

    1. Yes I agree but I've realised it really doesn't need to be that hard. You can substitute fish for lots of chicken recipes - the only thing to watch is not to overcook the fish. My aim is to share lots of easy no fuss ideas for cooking with fish over the next two weeks - both on this blog and also on mellymaks facebook page!

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