Fish Sticks: A Healthier Catch

Although fish sticks can be a great way to introduce kids (and other picky eaters) to seafood, they're basically breaded, fried, bland-tasting finger food. Yes, the omega-3 fatty acids are a terrific addition to the meal, but the 17 grams of fat per serving (3.5 ounces) isn't. Instead of raiding the freezer, whip up a healthier version in a snap.

Start with flavorful fish; I chose tilapia in the recipe here, but you could also use cod, haddock, flounder, halibut or salmon. Next, create a light yet flavor-packed crust by blending Parmesan cheese with seasoned bread crumbs. I also added panko bread crumbs for extra crunch (many times when something is labeled "extra crunchy," it's extra deep-fried).

Serve the fish fingers with a creamy, ketchup-based dip jazzed up with tangy Dijon mustard and sweet pickle relish. Kids and adults alike can refuel and rejoice at the same time!

Parmesan-Crusted Fish Sticks

Note: If the tilapia fillets are small, there’s no need to halve them lengthwise. Just cut them crosswise into 1-inch thick strips.

Cooking spray
1 1/2 pounds tilapia fillets
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 egg whites
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs
Creamy Tomato Dip
1/3 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon pickle relish
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

Halve each tilapia fillet lengthwise and then cut each half crosswise into 1-inch thick strips.

2. In a shallow dish, combine the flour and pepper. Place the egg whites in separate shallow dish and beat until frothy, about 30 seconds. In a third shallow dish, combine the Parmesan, panko and bread crumbs.

3. Add the tilapia pieces to the flour mixture and turn to coat both sides. Shake off excess flour and dip the tilapia into the egg whites and then the Parmesan mixture, turning to coat and gently pressing the mixture into the fish.

4. Transfer the tilapia to the prepared baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the fish is fork-tender and golden brown.

5. Meanwhile, to make the dip, in a medium bowl, combine the ketchup, mayonnaise, relish, and Dijon mustard.

6. Arrange the fish sticks on a serving platter and serve with the dip.

Serves 4
Nutrition Info Per Serving
Calories: 326
Total Fat: 7 grams
Saturated Fat: 3 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 32 grams
Sugars: 7 grams
Protein: 34 grams
Sodium: 787 milligrams
Cholesterol: 67 milligrams
Fiber: 1 gram

Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.

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