9 Small, Easy, and Practical Ways to Eat Seafood More Mindfully
If you’re trying to figure out why everyone is currently trying to give up seafood, it’s most probably because they’ve watched Netflix’s eye-opening documentary Seaspiracy.
The documentary, released in March, follows an investigation into the threat facing the world’s oceans from overfishing, modern slavery, and marine destruction.
Filmmaker, narrator, and environmentalist Ali Tabrizi, travels to Japan, Thailand, Scotland, and the Faroe Islands to find out what it means for fishing to be sustainable. Through disturbing footage and bold claims, Tabrizi advocates for an end to fishing subsidies and for no-catch zones to be established to protect a third of oceans by 2030, and pleads with viewers to give up seafood and take up a plant-based diet instead.
Of course, the 90-minute film has received plenty of backlash from NGOs, sustainability labels, and experts who have accused the filmmakers of presenting “misleading claims” and inaccurate statistics. Negative talk aside, it has definitely prompted a critical discussion on the true cost of seafood and what our planet would look like if we all became a bit more mindful of our seafood consumption.
While we all know there are a plethora of physical and environmental benefits associated with eating a plant-based diet and we should strive to eat more plants, it's not exactly feasible for everyone to cut out seafood entirely from their diet for health reasons.
As dietitian Mark Robinson points out: “Seafood is a brain food to help us cognitively function at peak performance thanks to its abundance of healthy fats found in fish oils, which also help to lower cholesterol, the risk of heart conditions and inflammation.
“Moreover, seafoods such as salmon, snapper, barramundi, tuna, and prawns contain healthy unsaturated fats, which are vital for hormonal balance and healthy skin,” Robinson tells Bed Threads Journal.
So, how can we be more sustainable, save our planet, and still benefit from the nutrition of seafood? It’s simple - find small, easy, and practical ways to eat it sustainably - and less of it. Here are nine tips to get you started.
9 Small, Easy, and Practical Ways to Eat Seafood More Mindfully
1. Choose a green listed species
It’s easy to find out the best seafood to buy that’s kinder to the oceans by using online resources. In Australia, we have The GoodFish Project - Australia's Sustainable Seafood Guide. This free and handy tool is based on in-depth scientific assessments by the Australian Marine Conservation and has three color-coded classifications: green-listed “Better Choice” species, amber-listed “Eat Less” species and “red-listed “Say No” species. By choosing green-listed seafoods from the Guide, you can be confident in knowing that you’re eating a fish species with a healthy population that hasn't become victim to overfishing.
2. Or download a sustainable seafood app
There are also great apps that provide instant information on every species, just like The GoodFish Projects guide. Australian-based apps like Ocean Wise and Seafood Watch are all excellent resources to keep on hand. Otherwise, do your research for apps created by organizations in your country.
3. Just ask if it’s sustainable
Your fishmonger or chef should know where your fish came from, so just ask them the right questions. How was it caught or farmed? Is this species overfished? Where is it from? Is it a deep-sea, slow-growing or long-lived species?
If they don’t know, you probably have your answer.
4. Eat lower on the food chain
Consuming small fish such as anchovies, sardines, mackerel, and herring typically have less of an impact on the environment than eating bigger fish. Remember, almost all fish when cooked to perfection and sprinkled with a pinch of salt and drizzled with lemon juice will end up tasting delicious, so find confidence in expanding your taste buds by trying different types of fish.
In saying that, it’s important you still double-check your app or the Guide as any species can still end up endangered.
5. Eat with the seasons
Just like you eat vegetables and fruit when they’re in season, the same goes for seafood. So, don’t opt for an off-season fresh wild fish species as this would’ve been shipped from afar. Again, ask your chef or fishmonger.
6. Swap bad for better
Is your favorite seafood listed as "red" by The GoodFish Guide or on an app? If it is, just know that any species can be substituted for something more sustainable (or one that is listed as "green"). For example, if you like Yellowfin Tuna, try Spanish Mackerel as a unique alternative. If you like Atlantic Salmon, try Australian Salmon instead. If you like Tiger Prawns, try farmed Queensland prawns.
7. Try seaweed
Wild seaweed doesn't need soil, fresh water, fertilizer, or farming. It’s fast-growing, absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen, and harvesting it supports local communities. What’s more, it’s considered a superfood that’s packed with iron, folate, calcium, and magnesium, to name a few. Even dried seaweed varieties such as spirulina and chlorella are rich sources of complete protein.
8. Check your serving size
Most of us overeat because our servings sizes are out of proportion. The recommended serving size for fish is 3 ounces or 85 grams, which is roughly equivalent to the size of the palm of your hand or the size of a standard deck of playing cards. It might not sound like a lot, but it’s enough for your body to reap the health benefits.
9. Eat more vegetables
Try incorporating an array of different vegetables into your diet, which will give you those same vital vitamins and minerals found in seafood.
“Vegetables will also do the job of lowering cholesterol for a healthy heart,” Robinson notes. “Also, there are plenty of plant-based sources like beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, and seeds, which are packed full of protein and healthy nutrients.”
Choose a few days a week to go completely meat-free, or try eating plant-based for two of your daily meals. Increased consumption of plant-based foods has been associated with reduced risk of some chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure, due to their high fiber and low cholesterol content.
When dining out, be adventurous and opt for the vegetarian option. Nowadays, restaurants have plenty of vegetarian and plant-based dishes that are equally as delicious and fulfilling as their meat and seafood-based counterparts.
Bottomline: eat more plants and fewer animal products – gradually add more vegetables to your meals, eat legumes and lentils regularly and start thinking of meat and seafood as a sometimes food.
Looking for more ways you can play your part in saving the planet? Here are 7 easy (and affordable) zero-waste swaps for a plastic-free day.