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How to Cook Seafood if You’re Trying to Lose Weight


Health + Wellness

Healthy Cooking Methods that Don't Skimp on Flavor

Wild-caught seafood is naturally a lean, nutrient-dense protein that can complement practically any diet designed to help you shed excess weight. Whether you are working toward reducing your calorie intake or are aiming to swap out low-quality foods for high-quality options, simply integrating wild-caught seafood into your meal plan can help bring your body back into balance. 

But you can reach your health goals even more effectively by knowing how to cook seafood to suit your diet plan. Here are some ways to take advantage of all that wild-caught seafood has to offer, using cooking methods that best match your goals.

Calorie-Restrictive Diets 

If your diet is designed to help you lose weight by limiting your intake of fat or is calorically restrictive, then poaching, steaming, and grilling are cooking methods that can help you achieve this goal. Each of these cooking methods requires the addition of little to no oil or butter, yet they will still reliably produce a moist, tender fillet when executed correctly. 

When grilling seafood, you’ll need to lightly oil the grill grates or your food so that your food does not end up sticking to the grill. Ultimately, that’s all you need to grill seafood to perfection. The high heat of grilling, especially over coals or a wood plank, is going to supply a lot of the depth of flavor you crave, so feel free to keep your recipe really minimal, simply seasoning with salt and pepper and serving with a wedge of lemon or lime. Or, you can serve with a fresh accompaniment like an herbaceous chimichurri, or this plum relish from The Kitchn made with a touch of honey and olive oil. You can also use marinade or dry rub to keep things interesting — check out our blog post on marinades, rubs, and condiments for some ideas.

Steamed seafood recipes inspired by East Asian traditions often require no oil at all, as they often have you steaming ingredients in a shallow bowl of flavorful liquid, a technique that is sort of halfway between steaming and poaching. This recipe from Food52 for steamed wild salmon is a good example of that, creating a simple soy-sake-veggie broth in which your fish will gently cook. In contrast, when steaming something in the French tradition en papillote, you typically will add a touch of fat to keep things moist as it’s a slightly drier setup. Serious Eats has a simple recipe for cod cooked en papillote with herbs and white wine, with the addition of just a small amount of butter and creme fraiche to add a touch of richness.

As for poaching wild-caught seafood, since you’re cooking in water, stock, wine, or another liquid, you won’t need to add any fat to the mix at all, unless you want to drizzle something like olive oil or sesame oil on to finish the dish. Martha Stewart’s recipe for poached halibut cooks this lean fillet in a flavorful lemon-thyme broth made from chicken stock. 

You may want to check out our post on how to maximize flavor by using fresh herbs in your wild-caught seafood meals, as herbs add little to no calories to the overall dish but will completely transform your dish. Additionally, if you own an air fryer, check out our post for air fryer recipe inspiration; this appliance will obviously help you limit the amount of fat you’re using when you want to create crispy seafood meals. 

High-Fat, Whole Food Diets

On the contrary, if you’re following a paleo, Whole30, or ketogenic protocol, then wild-caught seafood is naturally an excellent source of healthy, high-quality fats. Simply replacing some of your land-based proteins with wild-caught fish and shellfish will help you to shift your diet in ways that can help you shed excess weight without drastically changing your intake of calories. 

You might consider amping up the healthy fat content of your wild-caught seafood meals by integrating butter or ghee from grass-fed cows into your recipe wheelhouse. For instance, one of the practical benefits of cooking with ghee, also known as clarified butter, is that it has a high smoke point; ghee could become your go-to fat when you’re pan-searing your seafood. You can also use melted butter or ghee in baking, brushing or drizzling it over seafood. This recipe from Primavera Kitchen has you topping fillets of salmon with butter before wrapping them with foil and baking them in the oven.

As an alternative, try using butter or heart-healthy olive oil to poach your seafood in the oven or on the stovetop. This cooking method, which cooks gently and evenly, will add simple richness to your meal, and it also happens to be very forgiving for a fish like halibut that can easily end up overcooked. Check out this recipe from Jamie Geller for halibut poached in an herb-and-garlic infused oil.

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