When thinking about what to have for dinner, fish is a good choice.
Fish is low in saturated fat and can benefit the cardiovascular system when replacing other meat that is higher in saturated fat.
ChooseMyPlate (www.choosemyplate.gov) recommends that twice a week seafood (fish and shellfish) be the main protein food on your plate.
Seafood contains a range of nutrients, including healthful omega-3 fats that can help prevent heart disease, so choose to eat a variety.
Include seafood in your diet that is higher in omega-3s and lower in mercury, such as salmon, trout, oysters, Atlantic and Pacific mackerel, herring and sardines.
You can find information regarding mercury in fish and Maryland fish consumption advisories by visiting www.mde.state.md.us and searching for fish consumption advisory.
Think beyond the fish fillet. Try salmon patties, a shrimp stir-fry, grilled fish tacos or clams with whole-wheat pasta.
Keep seafood on hand. Canned seafood, such as canned salmon, tuna or sardines, is quick and easy to use. Canned white tuna is higher in omega-3s, but canned "light" tuna is lower in mercury.
Put seafood on a salad or in a sandwich. Top a salad with grilled scallops, shrimp or crab in place of steak or chicken. Use canned tuna or salmon for sandwiches.
Try grilling, broiling, roasting or baking your choices. These cooking methods don't add extra fat. Broil, bake or grill the fish on a rack instead of sautéing or frying to allow the fat, where the toxic chemicals concentrate, to drain away, leaving beneficial omega-3s in your meal. Avoid breading or frying seafood and adding creamy sauces. These add extra calories and fat.
Cook all seafood safely. Check oysters, mussels and clams before cooking. If shells don't clamp shut when you tap them, throw them away. After cooking, also toss any that don't open. Cook shrimp and scallops until they are opaque. Cook fish to 145 degrees, until it flakes with a fork.
Eating more seafood does not have to be expensive. Whiting, tilapia, sardines, canned tuna and some frozen seafood are usually lower cost options. Check local grocery stores newspaper ads; online and in the store for sales, coupons and specials that can help you save money on seafood.
Omega-3 fats from seafood can help improve nervous system development in infants and children.
Serve seafood to children twice a week in portions appropriate for their age and appetite.
Know your portions: a drained can of tuna is about 3 or 4 ounces, a salmon steak ranges from 4 to 6 ounces and a small trout is about 3 ounces.
A variety of seafood lower in mercury should also be part of a healthy diet for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Eating fish at least twice a week will improve your heart's health.
Enjoy eating fish — it's good for your heart.
Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.