Sardines: Your New Best Friend?

There it was, staring me down. It was smaller than my hand, you’d think I wouldn’t have felt so intimidated. But I just couldn’t bring myself to take it from the shelf:  a tiny, flat can of tiny fish that my midwife and just about every expert on nutrition for a healthy pregnancy had told me I must include in my diet: sardines. The very thought of them turned my stomach as I thought, how could everyone rave about these fishy little fish?

Here’s four reasons why:

Sardines are one of the lowest-mercury fish available. They accumulate far less toxins from our polluted ocean waters than larger fish that, because of their size, carry more heavy metals in their meat. Sardines allow us to reap the benefits of fish while consuming little to no mercury.

Sardines = Safe + Oily. Oily fish have fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K, needed for a fetuses’ healthy development. The largest ones,  tuna and salmon, have been traditionally saved for pregnant women and couples trying to conceive. (Lox, or smoked salmon, was born out of need to preserve this fish for travel to inland communities, who offered large sums for its nutrition and flavor). But what do we do now that hundreds of years of industrial pollutants have poisoned our oceans, and led many doctors to warn us of the dangers of large fish? Simple: eat smaller oily fish. The good news is that sardines have 272 IU (International Units) of Vitamin D per 100 grams, making them perhaps the safest whole-food source available.

Sardines are Brain-Builders. You know those Omega-3, DHA and EPA supplements you’ve seen advertized in every parent and pregnancy magazine in the doctor’s waiting room? Oily fish like sardines are nature’s most abundant source of these essential fatty acids, which are the building blocks of your brain – and your baby’s. And unlike those supplements, they are fatty acids as nature intended.

Sardines are chock-full of Calcium.  We all know how crucial it is to build our baby’s bones and, as women facing the danger of osteoporosis later in life, to not deplete our own Calcium stores in the process. But for those who don’t love dairy or are lactose-intolerant, there’s only so much you can eat in a day. Enter the mighty sardine! The tiny, undetectable bones in each little fish are incredible whole-food sources of Calcium. Squeamish about those bones? Let this story set you at ease: I will never forget the day I was making a lunch of leftovers, and pulled out a can of sardines to add to the spread. After turning my back for 30 seconds, I returned to the table to find my toddler had used his little fork to pull the can over to himself and was happily eating sardines by the forkful – bones, skin and all. Six years later, he’s survived many a fall that should have led to a fracture with his bones intact.

So, now we know why we should eat sardines. The question is, HOW? Back to me, staring down that can of sardines on the grocery shelf. I’ll tell you how I was inspired to pick it up, and have never gone back.

1) Choose wisely: Get whole sardines, not skinless or boneless. I love the ones in extra virgin olive oil (stay away from canola oil). They also come in tomato sauce and other yummy varieties.

 2) Use as a condiment: Add to a big salad – one of my all-time favorite summer dishes is a salad of raw spinach, avocado, tomato and sardines. My family loves them on bread, tossed into pasta with olive oil, veggies and parmesan cheese, or as a snack right out of the can.

3) Pretend they’re canned tuna: This is where it gets easy to sneak sardines into your diet, and your family’s. Use one can tune and one can sardines in tuna fish salad. (Drain and mash the sardines before adding to the tuna). My friend has a great recipe for “tuna salad”, which her 8 and 2 year old beg for.

Mia’s Sneaky Sardine Salad
Recipe Type: Salads
Author: Mia
Prep time:
Total time:
Enjoy this Ginger Moon favorite recipe in your home. Friendly for children too!
  • 1 Can whole sardines packed in olive oil.
  • Mayonaise to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Celery Stick (diced)
  • 1 Scallion (diced)
  • Squirt of lemon juice
  • Optional (honey to taste)
  1. ) In a medium bowl, mash sardines well with a fork
  2. ) In a separate bowl, add mayonaise, salt, pepper, lemon juice and optional honey, blend well with a fork
  3. ) Mix sardines and mayonaise mixture
  4. ) Add celery and scallion
  5. Serve on bread, crackers, tossed with pasta or on top of a salad.

So go grab a few cans of sardines, and try them. Find which ways you love to eat them and welcome them into your diet. Your bones, your brain and your baby will be glad you became friends with these fishy little fish

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