National Fish and Chip Day was launched in 2015 to celebrate the nation’s (then) favourite meal and is normally held in June but, because of the pandemic, has been delayed until September this year when most ‘chippies’ will be open.
However, according to The Spruce, fish and chips has now been replaced by curry as the nation’s favourite supper – albeit fish and chips is probably still recognised as the ‘National Dish of Great Britain’ around the world.
The heyday of the fish and chip shop (chippies) was in the 1930s when there about 35,000 shops across the UK, and fish and chips was a cheap, filling and tasty meal. Nowadays, that number has reduced to just over 10k, although with current methods they probably feed a similar number of people. But fish is no longer cheap, and for good reason as we will see shortly.
According to the NFFF (National Federation of Fish Fryers), 22% of people visit a chippie every week, chip shops use 10% of the UK’s potato crop and 30% of all white fish sold in the UK, with the industry generating around £1.2 billion every year.
Interestingly, the NFFF states that a portion of fish and chips provides a third of the recommended daily allowance of vitamins for a man and nearly half for a woman, and that an average portion of fish chips and peas contains only 7.3% fat of which 2.8% is saturated (compared to 10.8% in a pork pie.)
But is fish and chips really a healthy meal?
Well, let’s remember that many health professionals suggest that the 80:20 rule i.e. healthy food choices 80% of the time, is an excellent approach to helping people maintain a healthy eating lifestyle. For example, psychologist Dr Jen Nash in an article written for Diabetes UK explains:
“Remember that living with diabetes doesn’t mean you need to feel restricted – it’s just a new skill to develop in order to find the balance between ‘healthy’ foods and ‘treat’ foods.
I often encourage application of the ‘80:20 rule’ or ‘90:10 rule’ to food decisions (making healthy food choices 80-90% of the time is much more likely to be successful in the long-term than striving for 100% at all times).”
So, an occasional fish and chip meal from the local chippie, if you are eating healthily most of the rest of the week, seems quite acceptable.
Additionally, the Mediterranean Diet, often called the rainbow diet, also suggests that portions of fish and seafood should be eaten twice a week.
But of course, that isn’t really referring to deep-fried fish and the accompanying chips! And whilst the NFFF points out that the saturated fat in a portion of fish, chips and peas is significantly less than a pork pie, that is hardly a health-conscious comparison!
As we all know, we need some fats in our diet, but saturated fats are bad for us.
Many chippies now offer healthier options of steamed fish instead of deep-fried. And, obviously, if you are cooking fish at home there are limitless recipes and cooking methods. You could even make a healthy fish curry and serve it with rice instead of chips.
And why not opt for baked sweet potato fries as a tasty and healthier choice than deep-fried chips?
What about sustainability?
As the WWF (World Wild Fund for Nature) succinctly informs:
“The oceans are in trouble. Demand keeps increasing, and overfishing in many parts of the world is devastating marine populations and ecosystems. If we don’t act to preserve our vital ocean resources, they won’t be there in the future.”
Our Blue Planet further emphasises that 90% of the world fish stocks are fully or over-exploiting from fishing. Yes, really, 90%!!
If we wish to eat fish, whether in a fatty crispy batter or lightly steamed and served with a healthy tomato sauce and a green salad, we ALL have a responsibility to ensure we are eating sustainably sourced fish.
When buying fish, look out for the appropriate logos and/ or certification: MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) for wild capture fisheries; ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) for farmed fish, or other organic certification.
Being more adventurous with the type of fish we purchase can also make a difference and avoid overfishing the ‘big five’ of cod, haddock, tuna, salmon and warm-water prawns. Did you know that 6.500 fishing boats in the UK catch up to 150 different species?
Some of the more sustainable options are hake, coley, rainbow trout, mackerel, rope-grown mussels and small cold-water prawns. Obviously, always check the eco-labels.
Our Blue Planet suggests the public uses the MCS’s Good Fish Guide to sustainable seafood, which is available online or as a free app. As the state of our oceans is not static and the list of red rated fish – fish that are heavily overfished and therefore threatened species – changes continually, this is a really helpful resource.
In Essex, commercial fishing operates predominantly from Harwich, West Mersea, and Leigh-on-Sea. In all those areas, and other fishing communities across the country, some of the catch is available to purchase fresh from either the fishermen’s own managed outlets and/or from other local markets. Why not check out the availability near you and ensure you are purchasing sustainable fish and also supporting your local fisherman?
What if you don’t eat fish?
If you have chosen not to eat fish for ethical, environmental, or health reasons (a very small number of people have seafood allergies) why not celebrate National Fish and Chip Day with a vegan option?
Marlene Watson-Tara, author of Go Vegan, suggests tofu as a substitute to fish, served with baked sweet potato fries and vegan tartar sauce to create a meal as equally tasty as traditional chippie fish and chips.
Tofu has been a staple food throughout parts of the world for centuries and is known for its good nutritional and culinary versatility. It is a wonderful source of protein, containing all 8 essential amino acids, rich in calcium and cholesterol-free. Often used as a meat substitute, for National Fish and Chip Day, it can easily replace fish!
CLICK HERE for Marlene’s recipe for Tofu Fish Sticks.
Sign image by Cynthia Bertelsen from Pixabay
Fish and chip image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay