Food and Drink

Friday fish fries generally aren't very healthy, expert says

Although the act of frying fish can add hundreds of calories to a dish, an expert doesn't discourage people from supporting local fish fries.

Plates of fried fish and sides are delivered at the Allegheny Elks Lodge #339 during their annual fish fry.

During the lenten season, fish fries become popular destinations on Fridays as many Americans avoid eating meat on these days. 

While fish is generally healthy and recommended as part of a balanced diet, frying fish can lead to negative health outcomes, according to Beth Czerwony a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinics.

She said supporting local fish fries is a good thing, but she says eating fried food items should be done sparingly. 

“It’s not going to necessarily be something that you want to have all the time,” she said. “Now granted, if you have to indulge, it’s once a week, it’s something to support your parish, it’s something different. I don’t think that’s necessarily going to be a problem over the long term. But again, I think just looking at the totality of the frequency of how often you’re eating fried foods really is going to help determine how often you should visit the fish fries.”

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Eating any fried foods can lead to increases in weight and cholesterol. With more Americans, especially younger ones, struggling with obesity, Czerwony said it’s important to find ways to cut back on calories wherever you can. 

She says, when possible, chose to air fry fish, or cutback on mayonnaise-based condiments. 

“If there are other alternatives, or certainly if they’re offering more vegetables, see if you can get a salad or a side of cooked vegetables to complement with the fish and get a little bit more of a balanced plate,” she said.

When prepared without being fried, fish can be one of the healthiest items in a person’s diet. 

“I always tell people that kind of the smellier fish, the salmon and the sardines and the tuna, they have more omega three fatty acids, which has been directly correlated to having improved overall heart health,” she said. “But if we’re looking at cod, or tilapia, or Mahi, they’re really rich in calcium and phosphorus. So those are gonna be good for your bones, iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, these are also good to help decrease blood pressures, and they’re going to be good for overall immune function.”

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It’s not just fish fries supporting local organizations that become popular this time of year. Even McDonald’s has long gotten in on fish fries. 

The Filet-O-Fish was first sold at an Ohio McDonald’s in the 1960s because franchise owner Lou Groen noticed hamburger sales significantly dropped on Fridays during lent. 

“Not far down the road was a Frisch’s and during Lent, Frisch’s had great fish sandwiches and they were just kicking his butt in competition,” Erica Shadoin, Groen’s granddaughter, told Scripps News Cincinnati.