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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.
Certainly there's good research to support including fish in one's diet, and this is a basic finding in Mediterranean diet studies: generally speaking, you should aim to consume 6 days of seafood meals in a 2 week cycle. That said, there are a lot of folks who are allergic or simply don't like seafood.
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 non-fish-or-shellfish 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
Sesame butter (tahini)
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