Protein is king (it literally means “of prime
importance”) and swimmers are always looking for the
“perfect” protein. Is it milk (or the dairy proteins
whey or casein), beef, chicken, soy, pea, hemp? The truth is that
all protein contributes the building blocks (amino acids) needed
for muscle growth and repair after hard workouts. But, protein-rich
foods deliver much more than amino acids, which is why you
won’t be surprised to hear that nutritionists recommend food
instead of protein-powders.
Many young people are experimenting with different dietary
patterns…from Paleo to Vegan and even “Pegan,” a
mash up of Paleo and Vegan. If you are searching for a
nutrient-rich pattern with high quality protein yet want to eat
less meat, consider a pescatarian diet. A pescatarian eats fish and
seafood added to a vegetarian diet. Here are some of the many
reasons that swimmers should consider eating more fish –
after all, they have a lot in common… they spend most of
their lives in water!
Fish is a protein with health benefits. The protein quality is high
(right up there with eggs, dairy, meat, and poultry) and the health
benefits include reducing heart disease risk and developing healthy
brains, especially during childhood.
You’ve probably heard that fish is “brain food,”
because fatty fish (like salmon, trout, Alaska Pollock, Barramundi,
sea bass, and tuna) contain omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA. “DHA
is to the brain what calcium is to the bones,” says Dr. Tom
Brenna of the Dell Pediatric Research Institute at University of
Texas. Which is one of several reasons that major health
organizations recommend eating fish twice a week.
With so many types of fish (and shellfish) it isn’t hard to
get started. Here are some tips for choosing fish that can get even
the “I don’t like fish” crowd in the game:
Ease into fish with a kid-friendly food – fish sticks. Look
for fish sticks made with whole fish filets, like wild Alaska
Mild white fish, like cod, Pollock, tilapia, snapper, or mahi mahi
make tasty fish tacos; try it instead of chicken or beef tacos.
Frozen fish that is flash-frozen is often fresher than the fish at
the fish counter, so don’t fear the frozen food section to
find fish or seafood.
Canned or pouched tuna or salmon is an easy lunch or snack for busy
swimmers. Try some of the new flavored tuna or salmon to introduce
a global flair to seafood.
Make tuna or salmon “burgers” on the grill. You can
find frozen wild Alaska Pollock burgers in the grocery store, too.
Try seafood, like shrimp or scallops in pasta instead of meatballs
or meat sauce.
Enjoy a seafood-based soup or gumbo; clam chowder, she-crab soup,
or New Orleans-style gumbo, minus the sausage.
If you like salmon, try it grilled over a salad (a salmon Caesar
salad) or smoked salmon on a bagel.
The Seafood Nutrition Partnership website has helpful recipes to get you started, as
well as information on all things seafood. So, dive in!
Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, is a
registered dietitian nutritionist who has provided nutrition
information to coaches and athletes for over 30 years. She welcomes
questions from swimmers, parents, and coaches at