Fishing for Fitness

For a heart-healthy summer, slap some fish on the grill


This summer, barbecues will, no doubt, be full of beef, but Maximum Fitness is daring you to try something different. Once you get past all the excuses, try putting some fish on the grill. It takes a little effort—just like when you cook steak—but everything tasty needs time, love and tenderness. And don’t think of it as girlie food either—it’s what’s on the inside that counts, isn’t it?

Fish has a laundry list of nutrients just waiting for your body to absorb, including omega-3s, which can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Omega-3s can keep you happy in the long run, too: They reduce symptoms of hypertension, depression, joint pain and certain skin ailments. Besides, fish deserves some gratitude for keeping your eyesight sharp.

Fish is loaded with protein: a six-ounce serving of grilled salmon has 30 grams of protein and only seven grams of fat; other types of fish have similar amounts. The carb count is also relatively low, at only 200 calories. Sounds pretty good if you want to get your abs to pop.

Let your friends rib you if fish is your choice for the barbecue: You’re on a mission to see gains or lose weight. Red meat has its stereotype of showing results the manly way, but don’t forget that fish is just as good as red meat for bulking up. Plus, it’s good for your circulation and metabolism.

Grilling fish isn’t that difficult either—just don’t think about it too much. It can be ready in minutes if exposed to direct heat on the grill. Meyer Goldhar, a teacher and chef instructor at the Liaison College of Culinary Arts in Brampton, Ontario, says it all starts with a clean grill. “Make sure that the grill is extremely clean and very hot,” he says. “The fish should be slightly lubricated or floured for protection against direct heat from the grill irons.”

Grilling time depends on the type of fish you’re using. Goldhar suggests avoiding butter to keep your dish healthy. Instead, spray Pam on the fish or foil, not on the grill—otherwise, your neighbors will think that you’re burning leaves. Extra-virgin olive oil is another non-sticking agent and is a lot healthier than butter.

There are plenty of varieties of fish if you’re looking for options. “All types of fish are high in protein, but the firmer varieties, such as tuna, swordfish, salmon and shark, are the easiest for grilling,” says Goldhar. “Lighter fish, such as sole and tilapia, are nice, but they should be wrapped in foil because they fall apart easily.”

Adding other foods to your fish platter will make all the difference in improving its taste. Try cooking the fish with some vegetables. “Be sure to marinate the vegetables—a balsamic vinaigrette always works wonders,” says Goldhar. “You might also want to throw both the fish and vegetables into a fish basket—it can be bought anywhere that grilling accessories are sold.”

By now, your mouth is salivating and your stomach is grumbling “Feed me.” But don’t take the fish off the grill too prematurely. “Fish is ready to be taken off the grill when it’s flaky or just starting to come apart easily,” he says. “Test the fish with a fork. You want the fish to be firm to the touch and flaky, not dry.” If the fish isn’t done, grill it a little longer.

And there you have it; a simple meal that’s healthy and different. Now that we’ve given you the information, forget all the excuses, get to the grocery store, buy what you need, turn on the barbecue and grill yourself some good food. If fish still isn’t your favorite dish, don’t worry—at least, you can add it to the repertoire of meals you can cook for your girl.

Cooking Fish is Really Easy
Foil is your friend; lemon juice is your crazy glue. Fish dries out and falls apart easily, but when you brush fresh lemon juice on it, you can keep the fish moist and flavorful. Foil is a great option because it prevents fish from sticking to the grill.

– Just before you wrap the fish in foil, spray it with Pam or coat it lightly with oil.

– Sprinkle salt and pepper over the fillets and add thin pats of fat-free margarine. Next, add some vegetables: Sliced onions are a good choice, but you can also add potatoes, green beans and carrots.

– Loosely wrap the fish in foil. Heat the grill for at least 20 minutes. Your fish is ready to eat when it flakes easily with a fork.

– Put your meal on a plate, add parsley to garnish and dig right in.

5 Easy Fish for Grilling
(Grilling times vary depending on ingredients, portion size and barbecue.)

Grill time: 15 minutes

Grill time: Eight minutes. Grill four minutes on each side or until fish flakes.

Grill time: Eight minutes. Grill four minutes on each side or until fish flakes.

Grill time: Eight minutes. Flip snapper half way through grilling.

Grill time: 12 minutes

Originally featured in Maximum Fitness #8, Fall 2007