November 4, 2009

The Life Aquatic

Blogging about seafood is going swimmingly for Jennifer Wilmes McGuire, N06

By Helene Ragovin

As you read this, Jennifer Wilmes McGuire, N06, is probably eating seafood.

And if not, she’s likely buying seafood, cooking seafood, blogging about seafood or, perhaps, testifying before some government panel about seafood. One thing’s for sure—not a day goes by that McGuire, manager of nutrition communication for the National Fisheries Institute (NFI), isn’t involved in something, um . . . fishy.

“People seem to be really surprised seafood is usually just as healthful when it’s frozen, canned, pouched or jarred,” says Jennifer Wilmes McGuire, N06. Photo: Marco Garcia

While her job involves interacting with the media, government and other entities on behalf of NFI, a seafood industry trade group, McGuire’s most consistent public exposure comes in the form of her aptly titled “Blog About Seafood”. There, she details her menu planning, meal preparation, restaurant forays and favorite recipes.

Not surprisingly, McGuire eats considerably more fish than the average American—not just because she works for the NFI, but also because she lives in the middle of the ocean. Last January, she moved from Washington, D.C., where the NFI is based, to Hawaii, where her husband, a Marine Corps officer, is now stationed. (Check out her blog entry of March 10, 2009, for a shot of the breath-taking view from her lanai. Then scroll up for a recipe for Shrimp and Grits Casserole.)

“I actually eat fish, I would say, on the average of four times a week. Because I don’t usually include leftovers of a meal I’ve already blogged about, I eat more fish than is even shown on the blog,” McGuire says.

Current nutritional guidelines, including those from the USDA and the American Heart Association, recommend consuming seafood at least twice a week. The health benefits of eating fish—particularly those oily fish, like salmon, that are high in omega-3 fatty acids—outweigh any concerns about contamination, scientists say. (The government does advise pregnant and nursing women and young children to avoid shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel.) Yet most Americans fail to reach the two-seafood-meals-a-week goal, even if they’re aware of the recommendations.

“What we found was that people ‘get it’ about the health benefits of eating a seafood-rich diet,” McGuire says. “That isn’t really the barrier to not eating more fish.” What are stoppers, she says, are that people think they don’t like the taste of fish, they think it’s not affordable or they think it’s challenging to prepare. Through her blog, McGuire hopes to dispel those notions.

“I was obviously eating a lot of seafood anyway, so I thought, ‘I’ll show how easy and really delicious it can be,’ ” she says. Americans are happily eating animal protein already, she notes—in 2007, per-capita consumption of beef topped 100 pounds and poultry was just shy of 75 pounds. But seafood weighs in at a mere 16 pounds per person. “That’s a big gap,” McGuire says.

Like most Americans, McGuire didn’t grow up on a seafood diet. As a child in Nebraska, “I was lucky to see a fish stick in our kitchen,” she writes. When her family moved to Texas during her teenage years, however, she discovered fish tacos—and she took to seafood like, well … a fish to water.

During her time at the Friedman School, she became enamored of the seafood dishes at the Italian restaurants in Boston’s North End, savoring such specialties as grilled octopus. Later, in Washington, she lived down the block from the sushi place favored by diplomats from the Japanese embassy. “I love sushi because you can really taste the fish in its most pure form,” she says.

But for those who aren’t quite ready for sashimi, McGuire’s suggestion is to look at favorite foods that use meat, such as chicken, and replace it with seafood. That would lead to the seafood taco, or pizza with shrimp or anchovies (admittedly, she says, an acquired taste). Another good starting point is mixing seafood, particularly shellfish, with pasta.

And for those who don’t live on a South Seas island with access to fresh fish year-round? Not a problem. “People seem to be really surprised seafood is usually just as healthful when it’s frozen, canned, pouched or jarred,” McGuire says. “If you’re going to be eating a seafood-rich diet, you should have it on hand at all times, which you can’t necessarily do with fresh seafood. That’s how I operate, even in Hawaii.”

As for affordability, “the most bang-for-your-bite choices are canned tuna and other canned fish and shellfish,” she says. White albacore tuna, particularly, is extremely nutrient-rich in those prized omega-3 fatty acids. Also, she says, look for supermarket specials, and for individually frozen fish filets, which can be thawed as you need them—these are often available in bulk at warehouse stores.

And no, McGuire does not go casting about for her own fish. “My husband grew up in Texas, and his family has a ranch with a fishing lake, so when we go there, we’ll fish,” she says. “But I certainly don’t provide my own food with any regularity.”

In addition to her master’s degree in nutrition communication from the Friedman School, McGuire earned her R.D. certification through the University of Delaware. But, she says, “I’m not a chef. My recipe-creation skills are sometimes limited.” So in addition to her original creations on the blog, she features recipes from a variety of online sources, often adapting them as she goes along. Most Mondays, she posts her “supper plan” for the week, giving readers a preview of what’s to come.

Among the recipes featured on the blog are elegant fare like “Sole Amandine with Shredded Brussels Sprouts” (from; a fairly quick-and-easy salmon chowder that uses instant mashed potato flakes and frozen vegetables (from; and Rachel Ray’s “My-oh-mahi!” fish tacos.

Will she dare to mention her least favorite fish?

“Actually, there are very few foods I won’t eat,” she admits. “I’m a really strong believer in trying everything.”

Helene Ragovin can be reached at

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