Cookery 101: The Low-Down on Low-Fat Fish


Post by community member:

We have never been much of fish eaters here. Oh we love to go fishing, especially salmon fishing, and eat our catch, but fish was not on the menu on a regular basis. Along comes the doc and tells us 33 grams of total fat per day…that means fish, chicken, and turkey. I know some of you may be thinking that is nothing, but we like food…evidently fatty food.

My brothers catching a salmon on our annual salmon fishing weekend.

So, the researcher that I am, I set out to find all I could about fish, because evidently not all fish is equal!

That salmon that we love won’t love us back fat wise–it’s one of the fattiest of fish. Leave it to me to love the fattiest of even fish! I even came up with some great Salmon Patty Bites last year. Did you know fish oil pills are made of salmon? So, the fish oil pills were taken off John’s diet, too.

I set out to find the fish that offers up fat grams of 4 or less in a 3-4 ounce serving. John can’t eat just 3-4 ounces (and I don’t want him hiding food out in the workshop!), so I wanted to give him some room to fill up. These all fall into this range:

  • Cod
  • Cusk
  • Flounder
  • Walleye
  • Halibut
  • Hake
  • Perch
  • Orange Roughy
  • Porgy
  • Red Snapper
  • Pacific Snapper
  • Pollack
  • Shark
  • Sole
  • Swordfish
  • Turbot
  • Whiting
  • Catfish
  • Pike
  • Crab
  • Shrimp
  • Oyster

NOT that we’ll be eating shark or swordfish…we’re more the perch and walleye type of people. And quite frankly, I’ve haven’t heard of quite a few of these, but I keep a list in my purse in case we come across a new fish at the market or in the frozen section of the grocery store.

How to Choose Fresh Fish

  1. The skin should be firm and elastic. It should spring back when you press your finger into it. It should also be shiny and not color faded.
  2. The eyes should be bright and clear. Older fish have cloudy eyes.
  3. The scales should not be falling off. They should also be bright and shiny.
  4. The gills should be reddish pink and clean.
  5. The odor shouldn’t be overly strong. That unpleasant “fishy” smell is from trimethylamine, which is a chemical that is produced when fish deteriorate. You don’t want a “fishy” smelling fish!

A trick to test the freshness of fish: Place it in cold water. If if floats, it’s fresh!

While it would be wonderful to have only fresh fish, that isn’t a reality here. What we can catch, we will. What I can find at the fish market (at a price I can afford!), I will buy it fresh. Some we just have to buy frozen.

How To Choose Frozen Fish

  1. There should be little or no odor.
  2. The skin should be frozen solid and have no discoloration.
  3. The wrapping should be moisture-proof and have no air.

A trick to thawing fish: Thaw it in milk (ha! fat-free I assume now!)–the milk takes the “frozen” taste away and leaves you with fresh fish taste.

A trick to freezing fresh caught fish: Freeze them in water. It will keep the fresh fish taste when thawed.

This really opened my eyes to the healthiness of fish. I just never would have thought there was fish that wasn’t good for you.

I’m also looking for some great fish recipes! Non-fried fish recipes. I am getting veeerrrry tired of baked and grilled fish fillets.

Cindy blogs at Chippewa Creek ~ Our Life Simplified.

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  1. bonita says:

    CindyP: Thanks for this listing, it’s a list I’ve been meaning to find/make so I can choose the right kind of fish for me. I’ve been using The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s listing for sustainable seafood recommendation, so I choose the right kind of fish for the planet. The listing also gives some direction as to whether farmed or wild-caught is better. (Some of the farmed fish is higher in pollutants than one would assume.) The aquarium has put together pocket guides for several regions of the country, each listing geographically appropriate sustainable fish choices. [] They’ve even got some yummy recipes.

  2. mamma-leigh says:

    We are BIG fish eaters here, I know it is on the menu at least 2 times a week. Unfortunately for us all of the recipes use so much butter that I think we would have been better by eating a steak or hamburger! I have a few that are really good and can get even the non fish eater to like, I will post them on the recipe pages. I know you live up north but don’t count out swordfish or shark, they are both very very good…but then again I like to eat my fish raw most of the time too! Now I wish I could learn how to make that!

  3. lisabetholson says:

    Cindy, I was in the store a few years ago and decided to try sone Tilapia. I was very sorry as it was like eating mud. When I look at it in the market now all I can think is that it is Carp only young.
    We also like salmon and it is wonderful baked and stuffed with velveeta slathered over it before you serve it. I’ll have to make some and post it also when I get one again. DH doesn’t fish and I don’t have time. I’m just saying it may be a while.

  4. Anita says:

    Wow, I was surprised to see comment #3. My husband and I eat tilapia and catfish almost exclusively. (unless we’re at seafood restaurant or the beach) We both love it, and I buy it frozen quite frequently. I do use margerine to cook it but I use Smart Balance or another low-cholesterol brand in order to keep his numbers down. I usually simmer it in melted margerine and lemon juice, and lots of pepper and lemon rind, or lemon pepper seasoning (without salt). I also bake it in a small, low-sided pan the same way. If I cook it in a pan, I let the liquid cook down until the fish is almost dry and just slightly golden on the edges.

  5. Sharri says:

    Tilapia is a favorite fish in our house. I bake in parchment paper, this steams the fish nicely. Use a piece of parchment that will be big enough to fold the top together and also the ends. Place a fillet, pour over your choice of melted butter or margarine. Sprinkle with your choice of
    herb(s), we use Old Bay alot, as we live in Maryland, but fresh (or dried) dill, parsley, or oregano are also good. Squeeze lemon over top or even place a few thin slices on top. Fold top and sides of parchment, sealing the fillet inside. Depending on thickness, bake about 15 min at 325, may take longer for thicker fillets. Enjoy!

  6. jennie m says:

    I don’t really think you should avoid salmon. True it is a fattier fish, but it is the GOOD fat which is omega 3 fatty acid. Very healthy for you. Besides, salmon still has less fat than lean beef or even chicken. Enjoy it!! We eat quite a bit of fish. Hubby is an avid fisherman and we constantly have trout in the freezer and often have salmon or steelhead. I love salmon patties. I can the salmon and then have the patties any time I want. He also manages to get a sturgeon once in a great while. I also love walleye but they don’t have them here.

  7. Erica says:

    A word of caution when eating fish:
    The higher up the fish is on the food chain, the higher levels it may have of mercury.
    There is a lot of information on the web about mercury levels, but a quick search brought me this preliminary list:

    It’s of particular concern for children and women who are pregnant, but those who eat fish on a more regular basis should be aware. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those hyped up health scares, either. It’s part of the pollution problems. Be safe and happy eating!

  8. CindyP says:

    Thanks everyone 🙂

    While salmon has the good fat in it, it’s still fat….about 10 g per 3 ounces. John’s TOTAL (good, bad and ugly) fat intake for the day has to at or under 33 grams. Put 2 pieces of salmon with 1 tablespoon of butter and that is up to 25 grams of fat for that 1 course of 1 meal.

    His triglycerides have been doubling each time they’re tested. At the end of May, it was over 3000. That is so not good.

    You would be so surprised of the fat grams on anything…when the doctor says to watch the cholesterol, that means fat, not just the cholesterol number on the label. Go look at your oil label…..0 cholesterol, but about 13 g of fat per tablespoon.

  9. Teresa says:

    VERY interesting & informative – thank you.

  10. Miss Judy says:

    To bake or fry fish we dip it in an egg white wash and then panko crumbs seasoned with favorite herbs and spices.If fried we use the smallest non-stick pan or a very well seasoned cast iron skillet with only enough olive oil to coat the bottom.
    My husband lowered his triglycerides and cholesterol by adding more fiber to his diet. he used a product called Bios Life…this product really works…just kind of expensive but cheaper then prescribed drugs.I am not a health professional just letting you know what worked for my DH. After his counts were down he quit taking the product and just kept eating more foods high in fiber and low in fat and sugar. his cholesterol has never went back up…every once in a while his triglycerides might go up a little but nothing like they were before…and at the next checkup they are back down again.
    Thanks for the post on fish types!

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