Fish Fry Fridays – Keep the Fish, Wave Goodbye to the Fry

It’s that time of year again. The time known as Lent, when many Catholics (and others) prepare themselves for Easter with a number of different religious and lifestyle traditions. Here in WNY, a huge number of people take part in these traditions. And while they can vary widely from individual to individual, one tradition that seems to be nearly universal is the act of abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent.

The roots of this practice are deeply religious, but the benefits of this practice extend beyond personal faith and growth. Since meat is forbidden, many people turn to fish. And in Western New York, where we’re known mainly for our wings, we’re not a bad contender for our fish fries as well.

Let’s take a minute to talk about the health benefits of eating fish.

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice per week. So if you partake in Lenten Friday fish fries, great news! You’re halfway there!

Fish is a healthy, lean source of protein, and it’s packed with vitamins that aren’t easily found in other common foods. Fish is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which our bodies don’t naturally produce but are essential to heart and brain health. Some studies have linked high consumption of fish to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and macular degeneration. Fish is also high in vitamin D, which many people are lacking in their diets but is crucial to calcium absorption.

Now for the bad news: fish fries aren’t good for you, folks. They’re delicious, sure. And it’s totally fine to eat them occasionally with tartar sauce and without guilt. The nutritional elements of fish don’t change, regardless of preparation. However, deep fried anything isn’t exactly the picture of a healthy meal.

So, what if we swapped out our fish fries for another, more healthfully prepared fish? Most restaurants will swap out the standard fish fry for a broiled version, with additional seasoning to amp up the flavor without the breading and oil and calories. If you love going out each Friday, try ordering a different seafood dish. Or try a vegan or vegetarian dish. You might be surprised! This growing trend has talented chefs all over WNY flexing their muscles and reaching for alternative proteins.

You can break tradition and prepare your own meatless dish at home. With the recent renaissance of Meatless Mondays, there are thousands of recipes online catering to every diet and skill level. And, in fact, Meatless Monday is a tradition that dates back to WWI, when the slogan “Food will win the war” was used to rally citizens into rationing costly food products like meat and wheat (Wheat-less Wednesday hasn’t come back with quite the same force). If you combine these traditions and replace meat with fish, voila! You’ve got your two servings of recommended fish each week.

By skipping the “fry” part and sticking with the “fish,” you’re both honoring your religious traditions and doing your health and wellness a favor.