Tip, Trick, & a Recipe: Little fish, big health — Sardines

A teeny little fish that may never have been on your radar before is popping up on the shopping lists of health nuts across North America.

Pacific sardines are a tremendous fish to add to your diet. These little guys are chock full of minerals, Omega-3 fatty acids (they contain ten times more Omega-3s than mackerel), and protein.

Sardines contain calcium, potassium, selenium, Vitamin D, iron, and phosphorous. And because they are way low on the food chain, eating only plants and not other fish, these guys don’t contain toxins found in other types of seafood.

Pacific sardines, fished from the US and Canada, are on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list as a “Best Choice.” These little fishes are actually considered an underused resource of the sea! The same cannot be said about Atlantic sardines, which have been overfished in the Mediterranean, leading to depleting populations of this species of sardine.

Pacific sardines are a sustainable, inexpensive, high-quality source of protein, and because you can buy them canned, they make a great pantry item for those evenings when you forgot to thaw something for dinner! Oh, did I mention that despite the common belief that they don’t taste good (I don’t know where that came from) they happen to be delicious, to boot? You can find sardines packed in all sorts of things from tomato sauce, to mustard, or olive oil. I only eat sardines packed in virgin olive oil because they are yummiest.

Now, it’s time for your Trick:

Canned sardines make a delicious snack when spread on toast or crackers with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Your Tip:

When shopping for fresh sardines, look for whole fishes with shiny skin, bright eyes, smooth bellies with no bloating, and a mildly fishy scent.

And your Recipe:

Sardine Greek Salad

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Servings 4


  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium roma tomatoes cut into large chunks
  • 1 large cucumber cut into large chunks
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 4 tablespoons sliced Kalamata olives
  • 1 head romaine lettuce about 1 pound, trimmed of tough stems and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 4-oz. cans sardines with bones packed in olive oil, drained


  • Whisk lemon juice, oil, garlic, oregano and pepper in a large bowl until well combined.
  • Add tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, feta, onion and olives; gently toss to combine.
  • Divide the salad among 4 plates and top with sardines.


NUTRITION Per Serving: 321 Calories; 21g Fat; 21g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 92mg Cholesterol; 688mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 2 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 1/2 Fat. Points: 9
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0 Responses

      1. I’m not sure I can handle the crunching. I’ve choked on a couple fish bones in the past, and I’m a little gun-shy at this point. Is it really crunchy or just a little? Do you have to chew really well?

        1. Sardine bones are typically “softer” than other fish…..but it is always best to chew them well to be on the save side. 🙂

          1. If you’re not in the mood to eat the bones, etc – give them to your cat (or dog). My cat wasn’t interested in the meat much, but went nuts for the bones.

  1. best mashed with a little tomato sauce and put onto toast with cheese to melt in the oven. a favourite snack from my childhood and still loved today.

  2. I am wondering the same thing as Sue questioned. I read recently that radiation levels are increasing rather than decreasing and the impact on US west coast is increasing as well. Thanks for any guidance on this.
    “Sue Hernandez
    Just wondering if there is any concern with Pacific coast fish due to the nuclear leak in Japan”

    1. Hi MJ,
      Leanne says:
      The general consensus on the radiation question is that big game fish like tuna, swordfish, etc are more likely to have radiation issues.
      Hope this helps!

  3. I always have a whole box of canned sardine in my pantry (from Amazon), but I’m curious where to find the fresh ones. The canned ones don’t have heads, but for us Asians, little fish means we eat the whole thing and I would love to find it fresh…

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