Tilapia: The Family-Friendly Fish

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 by Susan Greeley, MS, RD

 Tilapia: The Family-Friendly Fish

In a world where more than 70 percent of the globe is covered with water, fish is a readily available food.  As consumers catch on to its health benefits; however, the global demand for fish is steadily increasing while our seas are being overfished. As a fish eater myself and mother of four looking to feed my family right, I’ve looked into what sources provide “family friendly” fish from nutritional, environmental, and consumer standpoints. I’m voting for farmed tilapia on this one for several reasons.

Tilapia Helps Battle the Bulge 
When looking for lean protein sources, it’s hard to beat tilapia. It’s low in calories and fat but still offers some “good” omega-3 fatty acids.  Tilapia’s nutrient profile makes it a great choice for a satisfying, delicious fish that won’t expand your waistline.  A healthy 6-ounce serving has under 200 calories with 34 grams of protein. What’s more, a recent study in the Journal of Functional Foods suggests that fish protein may suppress appetite by stimulating the release of certain peptides during digestion that are known to decrease appetite.  For years, dieters and weight-conscious consumers have been choosing fish over beef for its lower calorie and saturated fat content, but if eating fish can help reduce overeating, its potential weight loss and weight management benefits could be invaluable.

Sustainability: Choose Tilapia
In researching sustainable fish, I’ve found that responsible aquaculture, such as that used in Ecuador (where we get most of our farmed tilapia in the U.S.), provides one of the safest (non-contaminated) and most Earth-friendly fish around. Fish is raised in a low-density environment that allows them to grow in a stress- and disease-free environment, eliminating the need for chemicals and antibiotics.  Farmed fish is also a good alternative to wild-caught because it takes pressure off wild fisheries. In other words, farmed tilapia is a smart food choice for a fresh fish that keeps the planet and us healthy. Read more about sustainability of tilapia here.

Consumers Reap Benefits of Tilapia
In addition to being safe and healthful nutritionally, farm-raised tilapia is a family-friendly fish. It’s more affordable than wild-caught fish — a factor that ranks high on the list of what matters most to cost-conscious consumers. That’s good news for families on a tight budget that don’t want to sacrifice nutrition and health.

When it comes to eating fish, tilapia is also a favorite because of its mild flavor and texture.  The fillets are a great pick for kids since they have no bones.  What parents appreciate is that tilapia fillets on the table help make dinner stress-free — no choking worries or food wasted!

Go (Outdoor) Gourmet
Winter is over, and as we move to more outdoor living, this easy recipe can be made on the grill, a campfire or in the kitchen. Use local or even home-grown herbs and tomatoes if you have them.  Either way, this simple, fresh fish dish is sure to please the whole family — and it can help keep you out of the kitchen on warm weather days!

Summer Garden Tilapia (serves 4)

4 6-oz tilapia fillets

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped

6 Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced

1/2 fennel bulb, cut into small, thin slices

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped

12 fresh basil leaves

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1. Cut 2 large pieces of parchment paper and 2 large pieces of aluminum foil. Place parchment paper on top of foil. Rinse fresh tilapia fillets, pat dry, and place 2 fillets on each piece of parchment paper.

2. Light the grill. Alternatively, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

3. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat and add garlic, tomatoes, fennel and parsley. Add 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Stir and let cook, stirring around pan occasionally, for 8 minutes.

4. Sprinkle fish with remaining salt and pepper. Place 3 basil leaves on each fillet, then spoon tomato mixture evenly over fish, avoiding adding all the liquid from tomato mixture.

5. Fold paper and foil over fish and close. Place on grill over indirect flame and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until fish is white and tender. Alternatively, cook in oven for 15 minutes.

Nutrition information per serving:
260 Cals, 36 g Pro, 7 g CHO, 10 g Fat, 2 g Sat. Fat, 400 g Na, 3 g Fiber



About Susan Greeley
Helping others achieve optimal health through good nutrition and lifestyle, Susan Greeley promotes wellness through diets rich in healthy, wholesome foods. She counsels clients in her own private nutrition practice and works as the staff nutritionist for a YMCA.

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