The Worst Dish You Should Never Order At a Seafood Restaurant
Seafood is known as an excellent option for clean eating, as fish is rich in protein and good fats—the unsaturated kind, such as omega 3's, which can be great for reducing inflammation and protecting your heart.
"Most people don't actually eat the recommended 8-12 ounces of seafood per week, but as with anything, some choices are better than others," says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. "Fish itself is a great source of protein and many varieties have heart-healthy omega 3 fats. Just make sure to order wisely when dining out," she adds.
And that's the key: You want to make sure you're still making a smart option and not choosing a seafood dish that is actually, well, unhealthy. To make sure you're picking the best menu items the next time you're at a restaurant, you'll want to make sure you're getting your fish and shellfish prepared the right way to guarantee you're reaping the benefits of the fish and not adding on excess calories, sodium, saturated fats, and sugar.
As for the worst dish to order from a seafood restaurant, it's…
Let's be clear about one thing: Grilled calamari is way different than fried. If it says, "fried," just know that's an immediate red flag.
"Fried calamari is a family favorite that's surprisingly high in calories and fat! Red Lobster's Fried Calamari and Vegetables (you would think adding veggies is a good thing) packs a whopping 1,830 calories, 127 grams fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 4,720 milligrams of sodium, and 19 grams sugar," Harris-Pincus points out.
Get this—that's two days' worth of sodium (yikes!) and basically as many calories as an average person should be consuming in an entire day.
"Even when shared, that's a hefty way to begin a meal," she says, since this dish is generally thought of as an appetizer, too.
So why is eating fried calamari so dangerous? Well, if you eat too many calories in a day, this can lead you to gain weight over time. Plus, as for sodium and fried food in general, having too much can make you hold water weight and hurt your heart, setting you up for higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and stroke, Harris-Pincus explains.
In fact, studies show that fried food consumption from chicken and shellfish/seafood, in particular, can be especially worrisome for mortality rates and heart health in women, as well.
"The Admiral's Feast from Red Lobster is a standard fried seafood platter with shrimp, scallops, clams, and whitefish. It also comes with buttery, cheesy biscuits and two sides such as fries and a veggie," Harris-Pincus says. "Just the seafood portion packs 1,420 calories—almost a full of calories, two days' worth of sodium, and the equivalent carbs in over five slices of bread."
It's the perfect example of how shellfish or seafood platters get turned into just a bunch of fried options on a plate. (If you're looking more helpful tips, your ultimate restaurant and supermarket survival guide is here!)
What should you order from a seafood restaurant instead?
"The best option is to order any kind of grilled fish for well below 400 calories that's mostly protein," Harris-Pincus advises. Pair it with a salad, side of veggies, and a baked potato for a protein and fiber-packed meal that's full of nutrients and lower in fat and sodium. If there's a glaze or sugary marinade on the fish, ditch it and ask for lemon and olive oil over your nicely grilled filet of fish.
You can also go with raw or fresh shellfish, such as oysters, shrimp cocktail with a bit of sauce, or ceviche or Crudo, like a tuna tartare, a shrimp or salmon ceviche, or a Hamachi Crudo that's dressed in a light, fragrant oil and some herbs and citrus, for example.
As for fish, most options work, as long as they're not fried!
"Salmon, black cod and oysters are some of the highest omega fish you can order in a restaurant with more than 1,000 milligrams per serving," Harris-Pincus says. Just keep in mind the next time you're at a seafood restaurant that these are clear winners, as long as they are not fried and are prepared wholesomely.