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It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to askdrgourmet@drgourmet.com and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.

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Ask Dr. Gourmet



What can I substitute for fish and shellfish, if I am allergic to them?

I am interested in the Mediterranean Diet but I am allergic to fish and shellfish. What can I substitute for the fish/shellfish? I don't particularly like meat.

Dr. Gourmet Says...

The ingredients for a fish soup

Certainly there's good research to support including fish in one's diet, and this is a basic finding in Mediterranean diet studies. That said, there are a lot of folks who are allergic or simply don't like seafood. The menu plans in the The Dr. Gourmet Diet Plan software provide 6 days of seafood meals in a 2 week cycle.

There are a lot of choices for you in creating balance and still following the other Mediterranean diet principles. First and foremost, remember that the goal is to follow more of the 9 basic principles but that doesn't mean you have to be rigid. Moderate alcohol intake is one of the principles, for example, but I don't tell patients to begin drinking if it is not something they are interested in doing.

A good plan would be to replace one or two of the three fish meals each week with a vegetarian option. The other meals could be substituted with lean meat or poultry.

The essential fatty acids that are abundant in fish can be a bit more of a challenge to include in your diet. Here are some good sources and making them a part of your meals is important if you are not going to have fish:

Green leafy vegetables like spinach
Soybeans and soybean oil
Walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pecans
Canola oil
Flaxseed oil
Eggs
Sesame butter (tahini)
Tofu
Soy milk

There's good evidence that you can eat healthy (and lose weight) without eating fish. Substituting more meatless meals is a good option, but making sure that you get an adequate amount of the good fats in your diet is key.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet