Let's face it, kids are growing up on less than stellar diets. As a result, many of them are already addicted to the taste of high fat/high sugar foods from a very young age. As a middle school teacher, I became well aware of the lack of diversity in children's diets. It's no secret that their steadily expanding waistlines are a direct result of the poor quality food choices available in schools and in their homes. This is a struggle I see all too often; The parent is trying to be healthy, but continues giving unhealthy foods to the child in order to "keep them happy" or to make meal preparation simpler at dinnertime. Hmmmm...What kind of double standard logic does that follow exactly?
This is the list of ingredients in the most commonly served fish sticks across America (Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks):
Alaska pollock, wheat flour, partially hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ added to protect flavor, water, enriched wheat flour (flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), corn starch-modified, sugar, salt, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate), monosodium glutamate (MSG), yeast, dextrose, garlic powder, onion powder, spice, paprika, sodium tripolyphosphate (to retain freshness).
Pretty shocking! MSG, trans fats, preservatives, enriched flour...need I say more? Add to that the fact that 6 fish sticks alone are 250 cal and 14 g of fat. That's more than 50% of the calories coming from fat! Most chicken nuggets on the market are no better. People think because they're feeding their kids "fish" that it's somehow better than chicken nuggets, but it's clearly not even close to being healthy.
I sympathize with parents trying to find healthier meal options for themselves, and at the same time keep the entire family content. I understand there are picky eaters, and the earlier you can start making good wholesome foods for your family the better. It really is easier than you might think to make traditional favorites much healthier right in your home. You control the ingredients. You choose exactly what is going into the bodies of your family whom you love so much. Most kids love fish sticks! Why not try making your own with fresh mahi mahi? Kids not big fans of veggies? Find ways to make eating them more fun!
-12 oz. fresh white fish filets (mahi mahi works well)
-1 bunch asparagus (15-25 stalks depending on width)
-1 1/2 cup Panko whole wheat bread crumbs
-1 Tbsp. Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb
-1/2 tsp. salt
-sprinkle freshly ground pepper
-1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
-all natural ketchup (optional for dipping)
Step 1: Preheat oven to 400 F. Rinse and pat dry fresh fish filets and asparagus. Slice fish into 1 x 3 in. sticks and asparagus into pieces about the length of a toothpick.
Step 2: Assemble asparagus rafts- Using a toothpick, connect 5-6 cut pieces of asparagus by running one toothpick through asparagus along top edge and another through asparagus along bottom edge.
Step 3: In a shallow dish, beat 2 eggs. In another shallow dish, combine Panko, Mrs. Dash, salt and pepper well (do not add parmesan yet!)
Step 4: Spray 2 cookie sheets with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. Dip each fish stick in egg mixture and then coat with breadcrumb mixture. Place on cookie sheet.
Step 5: Add parmesan cheese to remaining breadcrumb mixture and mix well.
Step 6: Coat asparagus rafts on both sides with egg mixture and shake off excess. Coat both sides with breadcrumb parmesan mixture and place on cookie sheet.
Step 7: Bake fish and asparagus at 400 F for 8 minutes. Spray tops lightly with non-stick cooking spray, flip using tongs and cook another 8 minutes. Makes 24 fish sticks and 10 asparagus rafts.
Remove toothpicks carefully before serving asparagus rafts. (They will stay connected even upon removing toothpicks). Serve fish sticks with 1-2 Tbsp. all natural ketchup (optional).
While kids were the inspiration for this meal, this recipe is absolutely adult friendly as well. Mahi mahi, asparagus, and whole wheat bread crumbs...sounds like a solid muscle building meal to me!
Nutrition Facts (based on 6 fish sticks/3 asparagus rafts):
4.25 g fat
24.5 g protein
22 g carbs
*Add 40 cal/10 carbs if using 2 Tbsp. ketchup.