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Published October 08, 2010, 12:00 AM

Prairie Fare: Fish and shellfish add variety, health benefits

I wrapped the ties of the plastic lobster bib around my neck and stared at the bright red lobster on my plate. I was in Maine, where lobster is plentiful and less expensive than in the Midwestern states. In fact, I could see the lobster traps from our hotel window.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

I wrapped the ties of the plastic lobster bib around my neck and stared at the bright red lobster on my plate. I was in Maine, where lobster is plentiful and less expensive than in the Midwestern states. In fact, I could see the lobster traps from our hotel window.

Although I had eaten lobster in various ways, I had never ordered a whole lobster. I wasn’t quite sure where to begin.

The server helped me crack open my main entree, then it was up to me to be a little barbaric. I had a nut cracker and plastic pick in hand, but I broke the pick inside the lobster claw.

I really needed a hammer, saw and a set of pliers. I had never worked this hard for my protein, and I was building up quite an appetite.

I managed to get lobster “innards” on my sweater and to drip butter sauce on my pants. I decided I probably needed plastic coveralls instead of just a bib.

However, the lobster was tasty and the experience was memorable since I was with friends. I even remembered to remove my bib before leaving the restaurant.

I enjoyed a variety of local seafood and fish every day while I was in Maine. I tried seafood chowder, lobster rolls, crab salad, salmon and shrimp.

I definitely was getting plenty of lean protein. A 3-ounce serving of seafood provides more than half of an adult’s daily protein needs and has less than 100 calories.

However, many seafood and fish recipes are fairly high in fat as a result of deep-frying or frying. Grilling, steaming and broiling are methods of cooking that do not add extra fat. Adding butter sauce and mayo-based tartar sauce contribute flavor but also boost the calories. Fortunately, lemon juice and spices add flavor without calories.

I was getting omega-3 fats from the fish and shellfish. The American Heart Association has recommended that we try to have two servings of fish per week because it can have heart-health benefits. Salmon, tuna, crab, shrimp and other finfish and shellfish contain varying amounts of omega-3 fats.

Omega-3 fats, which are a type of polyunsaturated fat, have been linked by some researchers to enhancing heart health, lowering blood pressure and relieving arthritis symptoms.

If you decide to vary your protein sources, you can go easy on your food budget by trying canned or frozen fish and shellfish. Since fresh fish and shellfish are very perishable, be sure to shop for them last. Use your nose, too. Fresh fish should not have a “fishy” ammonia smell.

Be aware of any methylmercury advisories, which is particularly important for women who are pregnant, nursing or thinking about becoming pregnant. If you are among those groups, be sure to check with a health care provider for his or her recommendations. Check with your local game and fish department or visit its website to learn about local advisories.

When preparing fish and shellfish, be sure to fully cook seafood, but do not overcook. Fish and shellfish do not require long, slow heating to tenderize.

Cook at a high temperature for a short time, and then serve it right away. Food safety experts recommend that we cook fish to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit or until it flakes with a fork.

We certainly have lots of tasty fish available from lakes in the Great Plains and Midwest, so enjoy your local catch and try a new recipe, such as this fish chowder recipe from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service.


Fish Chowder

5 potatoes, peeled and diced

2 cups water

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

1 pound white fish (pollock, cod, etc.), cut into bite-sized pieces

1 onion, sliced

4 cups low-fat milk

Boil potatoes in water for 15 minutes. Add salt, pepper, onion and fish. Cook together until fish is done. Add milk. Heat and add more seasoning if desired.

(You can add a little “kick” with a dash of cayenne pepper.)

Makes six servings. Each serving has 270 calories, 2.5 grams (g) of fat, 23 g of protein, 39 g of carbohydrate, 3 g of fiber and 340 milligrams of sodium.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

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