Local pastime and favorite food benefits overall health

Did you ever think that fishing could be healthy for you, both nutritionally and physically?

Ice fishing is not only a favorite winter pastime, but also a potential source of your next healthy dinner.

Perch, northern pike, trout, walleye and largemouth bass may be a part of your weekend excitement, but did you know that these fish are a heart-healthy protein selection when prepared without frying or excessive saturated fats such as butter?

A 3-ounce serving (about the size of a deck of cards) of walleye contains 101 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 21 grams of protein, and 82 mg of cholesterol. By comparison, 3 ounces of 90 percent lean ground beef contains 196 calories, 8 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 24 grams of protein, and 85 mg of cholesterol, all according to nutrition data from the USDA.

Trout are not native to North Dakota, but are stocked for fishing in the state. Trout is considered a fatty fish, so it is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A, and one of the few unfortified food sources of vitamin D in our diet. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body, and decrease the risks of heart attacks.

Another benefit of ice fishing is that it is relatively easy to keep the fish safe from bacteria because the environment is so cold. Our North Dakota winters generally mean it is easy to keep the daily catch at temperatures under the recommended 40 degrees. Keep the fish in a cooler during the drive home. Remember that bruising to the fish or damage to the fish skin will decrease how well the fish will maintain freshness. Raw fish can be stored safely under refrigeration for two to three days and cooked leftovers are good for another three days in the refrigerator. Freeze all of the catch that will not be consumed within these time constraints. Never re-freeze thawed, uncooked fish. Fresh-caught fish will maintain quality for a period of up to two months in the freezer.

Freshly prepared fish must be cooked to 145 degrees in its thickest portion, and leftovers must be refrigerated within two hours, preferably sooner. Leftovers must always be reheated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Greg Gullickson, outreach biologist with the North Dakota Game & Fish Department in Minot, reminds us that not only is fresh wild-caught fish good for you, but fishing as an activity is also healthy. Fishing is relaxing and also generally requires some exercise which is also good for you. Whether it’s shore, boat or ice fishing, it all requires some physical activity. Launching and loading the boat, walking to your favorite shore-fishing spot or augering through three feet of ice all take some effort.

Take some time as often as you can to enjoy a meal together with family or friends. People tend to eat healthier when they eat together. The outdoors, for many of us, is a good place to spend time with friends, family or to enjoy the solitude. There is nothing better than a meal of fresh fish – and it’s even better when it’s shared.

If this cold has you dreaming of sunshine during your ice-fishing adventures, try this recipe.

(Allison White and Michelle Hoppman are dieticians working in conjunction with the Minot District Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, made up of dietitians in Minot and the surrounding areas who work in various practice settings. Greg Gullickson is an outreach biologist with the North Dakota Department of Game & Fish.)