By Healthy Child Staff
Raise your hand if you have a hard time figuring out which fish and seafood are safe to eat.
If you’re like us, you really want to give your kids and family all the good things about fish (omega-3’s, protein!) without any of the bad (mercury, PCBs, antibiotics – yuck). To eat fish that’s good for you and isn’t fished in a manner that’s destroying the oceans, you have to be an informed and conscious consumer.
Don’t give up on fish and seafood just because it’s complicated to know what to buy. Follow these tips to get the safest seafood for your kids.
1. Know where your seafood comes from
Get to know the person who sells you fish by asking her or him questions about where the fish is imported from, who caught the fish, and how far it traveled to get to the store or restaurant. Since there are no standards in place or labels to help you make decisions about fish, you need to engage with the waiter or fishmonger to get answers to your questions.
2. Buy fish lowest in contaminants
Think about eating species that are small in size, low in fat, and aren’t bottom dwellers: sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and clams.
There is no safe level of mercury to ingest so it’s important to avoid fish with high mercury levels like Ahi Tuna, swordfish, Orange Roughy, and shark. (See NRDC’s Mercury in Fish walletcard for information about fish with high and low mercury levels.)
Dioxins and PCBs are also a concern when eating fish. Pregnant women will especially want to avoid those chemicals. Take a look at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Super Green List or get the Safe Seafood app for your iPhone to help you choose fish.
3. Choose wild fish whenever possible
Wild fish have a higher level of omega-3s, a lower percentage of fat, and no antibiotics. Wild fish may even have lower levels of chemical contamination, depending on the body of water where it originated. Some studies have found farmed fish have higher levels of PCBs than wild fish. Again, ask questions of your fishmonger to learn more about the fish you want to eat (see point 1).
4. Just say no to shrimp
Shrimp is the most popular seafood in America, but it’s really filthy stuff. Imported shrimp, “more than any other seafood, has been found to be contaminated with banned chemicals, pesticides, and even cockroaches,” according to a terrifying story in Rodale.com.
So much for shrimp cocktail, that ultimate fancy dinner indulgence! Of course, if you’re looking for a dose of antibiotics with your appetizer, go right ahead and eat the shrimp! Otherwise, find out where that shrimp came from and unless it’s wild, think twice about eating it.
5. Reduce consumption of PCBs, dioxins and some pesticides through cooking methods that reduce fat:
- Trim fat, skin, and any darker meat along the top or center of the fillet.
- Remove the mustard from crabs and the tomalley from lobsters.
- Broil, grill, bake or steam to cook the seafood. Use a pan that allows fat to drip away from the fish, such as a broiling pan or steaming basket. Avoid frying fish.
- Avoid sauces made from liquid fish drippings or cooking water.
- Avoid dishes that call for whole fish with internal organs intact.
How do you decide which fish & seafood to feed your family?