Why Dietitians Are So Obsessed With Having Fish for Breakfast — and 6 Protein-Rich Recipes to Try

Starting your day with seafood ensures you'll get a good amount of protein to help curb cravings.
Image Credit: DronG/iStock/GettyImages

Fish and breakfast are not usually tied together in the same sentence. But having seafood as your first meal of the day is not as strange as you think.

In fact, many dietitians are thinking out of the breakfast box and going far beyond smoked salmon and lox on a bagel — although, that is definitely a favorite fish of choice for the a.m.

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With nutrition, there is no specific time of day for food. If you like it and it's good for you, eat it morning, noon or night. Rules of when to eat particular foods are thrown out the window.

"Smoked haddock for breakfast is really popular in the United Kingdom," says Melinda Boyd, PhD, RD, who's traveled the world experiencing how other cultures enjoy fish for breakfast.

"In Japan, it's often salmon, grilled or poached, sometimes raw," she adds.

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"Fish for breakfast has always been popular in my household, too. Bagels with lox or whitefish salad was very common in my house growing up."

Why Is Fish So Good for You?

Before you think that complete anarchy is about to settle on the breakfast nook, consider why fish is recommended in the first place.

It's low in calories, high in protein and most fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association recommends eating low-mercury fish (shrimp, light tuna, salmon) at least twice a week to help reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke.

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The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) agrees that omega-3 fatty acids from fish are good for heart health and they may also be helpful in reducing inflammation for those with rheumatoid arthritis.

If that doesn't convince you, the NCCIH indicates that just one serving of fish each week is linked to a reduced risk of dying from heart disease — which, by the way, is the leading cause of death in the United States.

A Run Down on Omega-3 Fatty Acids

You keep hearing that omega-3s are good for you and that you get them from fish and other foods such as walnuts.

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What's the deal? Here's the run-down on the types of omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids are named because of their chemical structure (please excuse the geek-out). Fatty acids are carbon chains that are either saturated with hydrogen (saturated fats) or not completely saturated with hydrogens (unsaturated fats).

Omega-3 fatty acids are named because of where the first double bond exists in the carbon chain — at the third carbon. Likewise, omega-6 fatty acids have the first double bond at the sixth carbon.

Omega-3 fatty acids are further broken down into three different types:

  • EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) is found in fish
  • DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) is found in fish
  • ALA (α-Linolenic Acid)-is found in plant foods, such as canola oil and walnuts

Now, here are some delicious and nutritious fish-for-breakfast recipes to break your fast in the morning.

Seafood Breakfast Recipes You'll Love

1. Egg Casserole With Salmon and Tomato

Salmon and eggs together pack a big protein punch.
Image Credit: Amy Gorin Nutrition
  • Calories: 300
  • Protein: 22 grams

Salmon for breakfast is not uncommon for Amy Gorin, RD, a registered dietitian in the New York City area.

"Salmon boasts heart-healthy EPA and DHA omega-3s, and the salmon and eggs boast filling protein," she tells LIVESTRONG.com. This Egg Casserole With Salmon and Tomato will keep you full all morning and will give you extra servings for days.

Salmon is a safe fish for everyone, including children and pregnant women. It is a low-mercury fish and can be safely eaten twice per week. Stay away from fish known to be high in mercury such as tilefish, shark and swordfish.

Get the Egg Casserole With Salmon and Tomato recipe and nutrition info at Amy Gorin.

2. Tuna Cakes

Using canned tuna puts the ease in this recipe.
Image Credit: Shahzadi Devje
  • Calories: 132
  • Protein: 6 grams

Adding a nourishing source of protein and healthy fats at breakfast couldn't be any easier with canned fish," says Shahzadi Devje, RD, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator.

These tuna cakes can be made fresh or in advance and frozen for quick reheat grab-and-go option for breakfast.

If you're just starting to jump on the fish for breakfast bandwagon, tuna is a great beginner fish. Canned tuna or tuna packets make it a convenient option for protein in the morning — just don't forget to brush before leaving for work.

Get the Tuna Cakes recipe and nutrition info at Desi-Licious RD.

3. Easy Salmon Patty Breakfast Sandwich

Healthy fats abound with salmon and avocado in this hearty breakfast sandwich.
  • Calories: 343
  • Protein: 16 grams

Twenty minutes from start to finish can give you a hearty breakfast filled with healthy fats and energy filled carbohydrates — faster than you can drive to a fast-food joint.

"Between the patty, english muffin and avocado, you're treated to a balanced breakfast with carbs, protein and fat — which will help keep you full all morning long," Chrissy Carroll, RD of Snacking in Sneakers, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

"Plus, the omega-3s in a fish-based breakfast are beneficial for numerous aspects of health, from the heart to the brain."

Get the Easy Salmon Patty Breakfast Sandwich recipe and nutrition info at Snacking in Sneakers.

4. Smoked Salmon Avocado Toast

Amp up your avocado toast with smoked salmon.
Image Credit: E.A. Stewart
  • Calories: 492
  • Protein: 31 grams

Avocado toast never goes out of style and you can make it even healthier — as if we thought that was even possible — by adding salmon on top.

"Fish for breakfast is a delicious way to boost your protein intake and get a nourishing dose of omega-3s," says E.A. Stewart, RD.

Smoked salmon has the same nutrition benefits of regular salmon but has more sodium, so make it an occasional choice if you're worried about sodium.

The American Heart Association recommends you limit sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams per day, or roughly the amount in one teaspoon of table salt. If you have high blood pressure, it's best to keep your sodium intake below 1,500 milligrams a day.

Get the Easy Smoked Salmon Sandwich With Avocado and Greens recipe and nutrition info at E.A. Stewart Spicy RD Nutrition.

5. Tuna Piccata Toast

Omega-3s in tuna may help protect your brain.
  • Calories: 149
  • Protein: 12 grams

"Start the day with an easy breakfast recipe with the benefits of fish," says registered dietitian Judy Barbe of LiveBest.

Whipping up a quick light and refreshing tuna salad in the morning might be just what you need. Top this Tuna Piccata with a fried egg or add a bowl of berries and you have yourself a hearty breakfast.

Eating just one fish dish per week may improve brain health over the long term. The anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are tied to slowing down the deterioration of the brain and helping improve the health of brain cells, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Most of the current research is seeing results with improved brain and cognitive health in people who actually eat the seafood rather than taking supplements.

Get the Tuna Piccata Toast recipe and nutrition info at LiveBest.

6. Salmon Bacon

Get heart-healthy DHA and EPA from salmon bacon in the morning.
  • Calories: 70
  • Protein: 10 grams

Yes, you read that right — salmon bacon. You've had pork bacon and certainly tried turkey bacon once or twice, but there's a whole new contender coming from the fish counter.

"We all love bacon, and here's a way to enjoy it that's good for your heart health," Amy Gorin, RD, tells us. "Make salmon bacon out of lox! It's super easy, delicious and you get the heart-healthy omega-3s DHA and EPA."

Omega-3 fatty acids are a bit finicky. You see, the body likes DHA and EPA directly from the source. Our bodies can convert ALA — the kind of omega-3s found in plant foods — but that process is limited, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

So, it's best to get EPA and DHA straight from seafood.

Get the Salmon Bacon recipe and nutrition info at Amy Gorin.

How to Enjoy More Fish for Breakfast

Enjoying more seafood at breakfast is only limited by preconceived breakfast norms.

"Anything goes for breakfast," explains Grace Shea, RD and owner of First Bites Nutrition. Eating seafood is more common than you might think and nutritionists everywhere are enjoying this new trend.

Smoked salmon is a favorite, but crab and tuna both complement traditional breakfast foods very well.

Here are more ideas from nutrition experts:

  • Stacey Dunn-Emke, RD and owner of Nutrition Jobs, loves her non-traditional breakfast: "I actually eat smoked trout with cream cheese all the time for breakfast. I'm outed!"
  • Cookbook author Toby Amidor, RD, finds a way to add seafood to her breakfast: "I love smoked salmon in my eggs."
  • Judy Barbe, RD, enjoys smoked salmon with avocado and grapefruit on toast with everything bagel seasoning.

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