You don’t have to give up all your favorite foods to stay heart healthy, but you may have to cook them differently. Here is how to do a healthy fish fry.
by Leon Pantenburg
Quadruple heart bypass surgery in 2012 caused a change in my diet. No more bacon (sob). A favorite snack of hard boiled eggs sprinkled with salt is off limits. Butter is gone (Alas, poor butter, I knew you well…) Meat intake is greatly reduced. No more bratwurst and sauerkraut. All this stuff is kryptonite to people with my genetic predisposition to heart disease.
But nationwide, heart disease is the number one killer. It doesn’t hurt anybody to cut back on the cholesterol and fats. But it does hurt to have some favorite foods become off limits. That’s why this heart healthy fish fry food will gladden your palate and your heart (pun intended).
The good news is that fish is a mainstay of most low calorie diets. Many fish, such as salmon, have Omega-3 fatty acids which lower your risk of heart disease mainly by lowering triglycerides and countering inflammation.
These Omega-3 fats come from a variety of sources, including spinach, mustard greens, wheat germ, walnuts, flaxseed (and flaxseed oil), soybean and canola oil, and pumpkin seeds. But the best source is fish.
I won’t have to give up my beloved summer fish fries – it’s just that the fish may be cooked a little differently, and the sidedishes have changed.
Here’s how to make your fish fry heart healthy.
- Use healthy oil: I fry fish outdoors, on my Camp Chef double burner propane stove, using a cast iron Dutch oven. This won’t change. But you may want to change the frying oil. My standard has become canola. Avoid oils that add cholestrol, such as those that come from animals.
- Breading is where the bad stuff can get added. Use the breading recipe below, and substitute spices and seasonings for salt.
Make healthy sidedishes. Nobody loves French fries, hush puppies and fried dill pickles more than I do, but these must be taken in real moderation. Check out the veggies recipe – it’s delicious.
When it’s all said and done, it’s possible to eat healthier and still enjoy many of the foods you love. You just have to be smart about preparing them.
Heart Healthy Fish
- Use firm white fish fillets, about one to two pounds, depending on how hungry you are and how many people need to be fed.
- Lay the fillets in a glass dish and sprinkle with smoked paprika, garlic powder and a ground pepper blend. Drizzle with lowfat milk.
- Dredge in a fish fry dry mix. (There are many on the market – read the label before getting one. Stay away from any with more than 4% sodium, MSG etc. Straight white flour can be used if you don’t have a dry mix.)
- Roll in Japanese-style Panko bread crumbs, mixed half and half with fine ground corn meal.
Put about one inch of canola oil in a cast iron Dutch oven, and heat to 400 degrees. Put the fish in the hot oil so the pieces are touching, but not too crowded. Cook about one to two minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on a paper sack.
Stir fry veggies
The beauty of this dish is that you pre-cut the veggies at home, and put them in a plastic bag in the cooler. When you’re ready to cook the main dish, these are ready to go. All you have to do is put them in the pan.
I use bell peppers, mushrooms (and if morels are in season, definitely use them), onions, squash and sweet potatoes. Pre-season these with no salt seasoning and paprika.
Heat canola in a skillet, and add vegetables, pressing them down slightly, so they cook evenly. Let them cook about three to four minutes, then turn. Cook until the vegetables are soft and slightly browned. Remove from the pan and serve.
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