To fish or not to fish: Should I become a pesky pescatarian?

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I don’t actually believe pescatarians are pesky, I just like the alliteration. I’ve been struggling with some health issues lately. My primary issue is hypothyroidism, but I also suffered a bizarre bout of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. It’s pretty strange, apparently calcium crystals slosh around inside my ear and make my balance go all crazy wonky. Like, fall down on my bum while trying to walk to the kitchen wonky. But I digress.

I’ve never liked to eat meat. My mom tells me I poo-pooed the meat baby food even as a tiny baby. I think it tastes gross. The texture is also super weird. And, while I think the ethical issues of not eating animals are a great bonus, it’s not my primary motivation for being a vegetarian. So it’d be hypocritical of me to say I’m a vegetarian to save the animals. After all, I still have a few leather products and I’m sure I have pills and such with gelatin or rennet or some other animal bone product that I’m unaware of. Of course, I wholeheartedly support the vegetarians and vegans who choose the full vegetarian and vegan lifestyle path for ethical reasons. You’re awesome! And stronger men and women than I.

But, since becoming aware of my health issues about a year ago, I’ve been struggling with whether to alter my diet to help combat my thyroid disorder. I’m supposed to eat more iodine, my Vitamin D and iron are low and certain foods can contribute to inflammation in my joints and worsen my joint pain. Basically, my body is fighting toxins, allergens, infections and its own stress response. It’s redirecting that fight onto my joints and my thyroid.

So, while I’m on synthetic thyroid hormone supplements that are helping my body correct its issues, I think there’s more I can do. I’ve read a lot about anti-inflammatory diets recently and I think it might help me. And it might help my family as well. As you know if you’re a follower of the blog, my family is a blended-eater family. My girls (ages 3 and 4 now) are undecided omnivores—one leans toward pescatarianism while the other is a meat-eater—and my husband is a meat-eater while I’m a vegetarian. So, not only could a new diet make me healthier and able to better interact with my family, it may also make dinnertime easier by adding a new protein option for the entire family.

As part of my personal health journey, I plan to cut down on some of my starches and grains and I’m going TRY to start eating fish.

That’s right, I’m going to try to become a pescatarian after 25 years as a vegetarian.

Here’s the big downside: I hate fish. My family vacationed in Minnesota every summer when I was growing up. And I loved to go fishing. Eating the fish, not so much. Flaky fried fish with all those weird little pockets of flesh and strange black veiny things? Eww. But about 15 years or so ago in college, I experimented. I ate a bit of smoked salmon on top of a salad. And it wasn’t disgusting. I haven’t really had it since, but I remember it being tolerable. So today, I decided to embark upon my dietary adventure with a salmon patty.

Mr. Meaty, my poor beleaguered husband, had to hold my hand through the process. He fried it up for me, asked me numerous questions about optional toppings and dipping sauces and generally supported me through all the stinky faces I was making and the outright fear I was expressing. We opted for a plain patty for the first attempt. And Mr. Meaty offered me two dipping options: lime juice and malt vinegar. I tried both, as well as dip-free.

Now, the faces I made weren’t pretty. I didn’t like it. Not at all. But I also didn’t hate it so much that I spit it back out. So I’m calling that a win in the progress column. I’m not ashamed to admit that I asked my 3-year-old, Goose, to trade me her green beans from her little princess plate in exchange for my salmon patty remains. She gamely finished my salmon patty for me when I couldn’t stomach any more of it. That’s love right there.

I think, smothered in fresh spinach and maybe a chipotle-garlic aioli, it’s possible that I could stomach more salmon patties in the future.

Since I’ve been struggling with these health and moral issues, I’ve not been posting as many recipes as I would like. As you know if you’re a follower, I’m always super honest about the results of my recipe experiments. And until I knew for sure what path my diet would be taking, I wasn’t ready to share the nitty gritty details of my fishy exploits. But, now that I’ve chosen and started to make the attempt to flex over to pescatarian for a few days each month, I’m ready to share.

I’m interested in a modified pescatarian version of the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. But of course, since there aren’t too many people out there who follow that diet, it will be an ongoing experiment. I’m not willing to relinquish all of my grains, beans, legumes and dairy anytime soon. But I think adjusting my diet to focus more on vegetables and healthy proteins (and a tiny bit of fish) might help me live a healthier and more energetic lifestyle with my family.

Thanks for “listening” and, as always, I’d love your input and advice!

What do you think of pescatarianism and auto-immune diets? Are any of you pescatarians? What are some of your favorite, healthy pescatarian meals?

photo credit: TheBusyBrain via photopin cc

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Comments

  1. says

    I’m vegetarian, and have been for as long as I can remember – so I can completely understand why you would need your hand holding to even try. I’ve only eaten a mouthful of meat a couple of times by accident (when restaurants have served me the wrong thing), and I felt physically sick at the idea. I see why you would need to prioritise your health, though, so although I wouldn’t do it myself I wish you all the best in acquiring a taste for it!

    • says

      Rachel, thank you so incredibly much for the support and the kid words. I really appreciate it. It’s going to be a tough journey.
      And I know what you mean about the restaurant mistakes. That’s always so disturbing and even worse if the restaurant belittles you if you get upset (I had a waitress tell me once something like “it’s just a little pork for flavor, it’s not a big deal” and give me a big ugly sigh.)
      Thanks again!

  2. Jill says

    I was a vegetarian for many years before adding fish to my diet about 5 years ago. I never ate fish much as a child (in my pre-veggie years), so it definitely took me some time to acquire a taste for it. Now, however, I love having fish as an option for healthy dinners with my family (which is almost exactly like yours in the way we eat! Carnivore hubby who doesn’t like vegetables, picky veggie-leaning daughter, eats anything son). Some of my favorite recipes:
    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/oven-roasted-cod-crusted-with-herbs-recipe/index.html
    (We usually use tillapia instead of cod – whatever looks good at Costco)

    http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Brown-Sugar-Glazed-Salmon
    (We grill the salmon, and I use the glaze as a sauce after I cook the salmon)

    We also love salmon sandwiches – salmon on the grill with a little tarter sauce and a pickle on a bun.

    I hope you find some recipes you like!

    • says

      Jill, thank you so much for the recipe ideas and the support. It always helps so much to feel like I’m not the only one struggling with these issues. I’m definitely going to check out those recipes (and hopefully work up to actually tasting them!)…I haven’t been able to eat fish in filet form yet (only in patties/burger form), but when I get there I’ll try your suggestions.
      Thanks, Jill!

  3. Christine says

    I have been a vegetarian for 20 years. Beef, pork , chicken and turkey always made me sick since I was a kid. I was able to eat tuna occasionally for some reason. This summer I went on the Whole 30 diet plan. I added some more fish to my diet since I went off beans and legumes. I had a hard time adjusting to eating fish that were not tuna. I have gotten used to the taste and I eat fish twice a week now. You should experiment to find a fish that you can eat. There is no rule book out there about what you have to eat. Each person is different and has different tolerances. If you try tuna first try tuna in oil. The taste is so much better than tuna in water. I think that the tuna is a better quality also.

    • says

      Christine, thank you for the great information and the support. I really appreciate it. I’m so sorry that meat made you sick. That must be tough. I vaguely recall it making me queasy when I was a kid, too, but I think mine was mostly psychosomatic.
      That’s really interesting about the Whole 30 diet plan. I’ll have to look into it. I’m not sure I’m ready to give up beans, but I have been reading a little bit about that via the paleo autoimmune protocol. If I could give up just legumes and not regular beans I might be able to do it easily, but all beans sounds so tough!
      I definitely recall that I prefer (in my super limited experience) steakier fish like salmon, tuna and swordfish as opposed to flakier fish varieties. So if and when I get up the gumption to try tuna, I’ll definitely keep the oil-packed variety in mind. That’s a great tip! Thanks so much for sharing it and sharing about your experience.

  4. says

    Kristi, wonky becomes funny only in cartoons. While it’s true that most women need more oil than men, the right kinds of oil can come from plant-based sources. It seems to me this would be the primary reason to add fish to a veggie diet. If you do, try Dr. Joel Furhman’s suggestion of using it as a condiment, sprinkled over a salad, rather than as a full-blown entree. I’ll conclude with this clip from a “Hallelujah Health Tip”: “I have been hypothyroid for over 30 years. Since adopting The Hallelujah Diet three months ago my thyroid levels have increased dramatically. My doctor has had to reduce my medication dose by 1/3 and I was wondering if this is a normal response to The Hallelujah Diet?”
    Dolores

    EDITOR RESPONDS – A number of people have reported thyroid function normalizing after adopting The Hallelujah Diet and a need to drastically reduce or eliminate medication. Let me know how it goes for you.

    • says

      Thanks, Steve. That’s so helpful. I’m a solid failure at trying to eat fish as an entree. I could eat smoked salmon with cream cheese on a cracker…that is, until I realized gluten is a migraine trigger! So now I’d need to find/make gluten-free crackers that “go” well with salmon. Hah!
      I’ll have to check out the Hallelujah Diet. Thanks so much for the information, I appreciate it.

  5. Rick Goddard says

    I just recently added fish to a plant-based whole foods diet for health reasons only. I’m still trying to balance my meals with a small amount of fish one or two times a week. Flavoring it has been an issue with me also, because plain fish isn’t appetizing.

    One thing to try is to season it with a blend of spices. My favorite is salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, white pepper, and hot (cayenne) pepper. Sprinkle it on both sides and pan-fry or broil it.

    Another thing that I’ve liked is applying a green olive tapenade (Trader Joes). to give it a different flavor. Mango salsa is pretty tasty on top as well.

  6. Chanel says

    That was an interesting article. I am sort of going through an opposite situation. I am a full blown omnivore. I eat both plants and animal products. I even eat red meat and poultry frequently. I eat fish sometimes. For me, salmon patties are so yummy. Ironically I rarely eat tuna, because they are over-fished. Salmon is fine, because they can be farmed. I prefer eating my fish with no kind of sauce or other condiment whatsoever. I just like the fishy flavor.

    O all the kinds of foods, vegetables are the ones that I am least likely to eat. I am sensitive to the bitter taste, and I don’t like it. However I know that vegetables are good for me. I tend to compromise by eating sweet fruits. They are both delicious and nutritious. I like carrots and potatoes too, which are vegetables. I have been volunteering in a cafeteria for about a month. I have been trying to eat more vegetables over there. I do try that stuff, but it often is too icky to stomach. I have found that cucumbers taste good. Technically they are not vegetables, but fruit. Still they are not sweet at all for a fruit. I just have a few pieces of cucumbers instead of a normal varied salad. I feel like a kappa. Maybe I can try adding more lettuce. Vegetables are yuckier when they are cooked, so it may take me longer to get used to them. I do like a saute mix of vegetables, rice and meat. I rarely eat that, but I can try that more often.

    Just because I am trying more vegetables, it doesn’t mean I will give up on meat. I prefer a diet that has a balance of all food groups. As for morality, I think it is best to raise and slaughter animals for meat, but to do it as humanely as possible. I find cruelty to fish and lobsters just as disturbing as cruelty to cattle, pigs and chickens.

    • says

      I definitely prefer most veggies raw, too. Cucumbers totally count. I think they’re in the “nutritional vegetable, botanical fruit” category like tomatoes.

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