Remember that old joke: “Yeah, I’m on a seafood diet… I SEE FOOD, and I eat it!”
Well, turns out incorporating some actual seafood (you know – the kind that comes from the sea) can, in fact, be a great way to improve the heart-healthiness of your diet.
As part of our ongoing February American Heart Month feature series, Eat Jackson went to lunch with Dr. H Chris Waterer III, an interventional cardiologist from the Jackson Heart Clinic. Dr. Waterer suggested meeting at the relatively new seafood restaurant, The Islander. He brought along his nurse, Belmont Trapp, as well as Ashlee and Brooke from his office.
“Fish, in general, is a heart-healthier protein choice than meat,” Dr. Waterer said, explaining his choice of lunch venue. He’s lived in Jackson since 1981, when he and his wife (also a doctor) moved here for medical school. “Mississippians love coming together over food, but we need to work on making healthier choices about both what we eat, and how much we eat of it.”
Everyone at the table started our meal with a small cup of seafood bisque. Dr. Waterer pointed out that a nice, warm cup of soup can be a good way to feed your craving for something satisfying. “With soup, you do have to watch for salt content, or too much cream, but portion size really helps. A small cup, nice and warm like this, works well.”
“Avoid anything fried!” Dr. Waterer cautioned. “And along those lines, keep in mind that preparation and portion size are both important. Sometimes a perfectly healthy food is prepared in a particularly unhealthy way. For example, shrimp is good for you. Fried shrimp, not so good for you. So go with the boiled or grilled options, and you can still eat your favorite foods that way. And if you’re served a large portion, you can also plan to eat half of what’s on your plate, then request a box and take the rest home.”
We all made our selections, and then, while waiting for our food to arrive, began chiming in and sharing our own healthy-eating strategies, like allowing a weekly splurge or sharing a dessert instead of eating a full portion of sweets on our own. Nurse Belmont is also a fan of Juice Plus fruit and vegetable capsules, to make sure that no matter what else she eats, she’s getting her fruits and veggies in for the day. We also talked about the dangers of processed foods, and how “detached” from our food we’ve become – we don’t get eggs from chickens in our backyard as much anymore; we have to go to the store. Dr. Waterer recalled growing up on a farm in the Delta, getting fruits like pears from trees in his grandparents’ yard; heart-healthier choices were easier and almost a default-setting then, in some ways. We have to make an effort now to bring those choices back into our lives. Of course, living in the South, we are lucky to have farmer’s markets and local produce available far more regularly throughout the year than in places up North.
Our food arrived quickly, and since a picture is worth a thousand words, we’ll let the next several pictures speak for themselves. But we’re pretty sure when you see how delicious a heart-healthy seafood lunch can be, you’ll be planning on a seafood diet (or at least, a seafood meal!) sometime soon:
Shrimp Basket with Boiled Shrimp and Sweet Potato Fries
Love a good shrimp basket? Instead of deep-fried, breaded shrimp and oil-soaked French fries, at the Islander, Nurse Belmont was able to order Boiled Shrimp, with heart-healthier Sweet Potato Fries. Yum!
Seared Tuna with a Medley of Vegetables
Two of us opted for this tasty option – seared tuna with a little bit of sesame, served over spring mix, with a small side of rice and steamed vegetables. A generous enough portion that both of us who ordered it took the tip about getting half of our meal packaged to-go!
Tilapia with Pineapple Salsa
This was Dr. Waterer’s lunch. Tilapia is a good heart-healthy fish choice, he said, and also pointed out the pineapple salsa topping: “You’re seeing more of this, and it’s a good thing – using vegetables to bring some seasoning and flavor, rather than something salty or a heavy cream sauce.”
Though Brooke, who ordered the oysters, joked that she was the “bad example” and got the “unhealthy option,” it really wasn’t so bad – some parmesan cheese was broiled atop the oysters, but they weren’t breaded or fried.
Remember, now and then a little taste of something richer is okay – as Dr. Waterer says, “Even donuts are okay as a treat, once in awhile. Just don’t eat them every day for breakfast!”
If you’re eating a healthy breakfast like oatmeal most mornings, and also getting your share of heart-healthy seafood for some lunches and dinners, you’ll be doing yourself – and your heart – a real favor; and with local dining options like those at the Islander, you can even do that favor with some real flavor.
What’s your favorite heart-healthy fish dish?
Editor’s Note: The Eat Jackson February sponsor is Jackson Heart Clinic. For more information, visit their website at jacksonheartclinic.com, like Jackson Heart Clinic on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @JacksonHeartMS.