Are Fish Sticks Healthy? [Find Out Now]

Fish is usually perceived as a healthier option compared to red meat, and for good reason. Diets rich in fish may offer health-protective benefits such as improved heart and brain health.

Fish is lower in saturated fat compared to red meat, making it a popular option for people who suffer from high cholesterol. How do fish sticks measure up in terms of how healthy they are?

Fish sticks offer some of the nutritional benefits of fish, but they aren’t as healthy as plain, unprocessed fish. Fish sticks add sodium, preservatives (in some cases), and additional carbohydrates not otherwise found in fresh or frozen fish fillets.

When choosing frozen fish sticks, try to choose brands that use whole wheat flour as breading and those that have the lowest sodium content.

DISCLAIMER: While this information was prepared by a certified dietitian, it is NOT a medical advice. Please consult your own medical professional before altering your diet. The information is strictly for educational purposes.

Fish Sticks Nutritional Information

1.Gorton’s Fish Sticks

Ingredients:

  • Alaskan Pollock Fillets
  • Breadcrumb Coating (Wheat Flour, Water, Yellow Corn Flour, Sugar, Salt, Onion Powder, Whey, Yeast, Baking Powder [Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Cream of Tartar], Natural Flavor)
  • Canola Oil

Nutritional Information (per four sticks):

  • Calories: 230
  • Total Fat: 10 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g
  • Sodium: 430 mg (19% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrate: 26 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 1 g
  • Total Sugars: 2 g
  • Added Sugar: 1 g
  • Protein: 10 g

2.Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks

Ingredients:

  • Minced Pollock
  • Bread Crumbs (Unbleached Wheat Flour, Sugar, Salt And Yeast)
  • Water
  • Cottonseed Oil And/Or Soybean Oil
  • Wheat Flour
  • Contains 2% Or Less Of: Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour [Enriched With Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid], Salt, Soybean Oil), Modified Food Starch, Salt, Sugar, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Dextrose, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Natural Flavors, Paprika.

Nutritional Information (per 6 pieces):

  • Calories: 230
  • Total Fat:  10 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.5 g
  • Sodium: 440 mg (19% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrate: 22 g
  • Dietary Fiber: <1 g
  • Total Sugars: <1 g
  • Added Sugars: <1 g
  • Protein: 10 g

3.Trident Seafood Ultimate Fish Sticks

Ingredients:

  • Fish (Alaska Pollock)
  • Whole Wheat Flour
  • Vegetable Oil (Soybean and/or Canola)
  • Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Contains 2% or Less of: Whole Grain Yellow Corn Meal, Ranch Seasoning (Maltodextrin, Salt, Dehydrated Onion, Dehydrated Garlic, Disodium Inosinate & Disodium Guanylate, Natural Flavor [Maltodextrin], Modified Food Starch, Buttermilk, Natural Flavor), Corn Starch, Salt, Vital Wheat Gluten, Rice Starch, Yeast, Leavening (Cream of Tartar, Baking Soda)
  • Tapioca Starch
  • Enriched and Unenriched Malted Barley Flour (Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)

Nutritional Information (per 3 pieces):

  • Calories: 170
  • Total Fat: 8 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.5 g
  • Sodium: 310 mg (13% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrate: 14 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 1 g
  • Sugars: 0 g
  • Protein: 12 g

4.Trader Joe’s Fish Sticks (Lightly Breaded, Reduced Fat)

Ingredients:

  • Pollock
  • Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • Pollock Protein
  • Water
  • Modified Wheat Starch
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Yeast
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Natural Flavors
  • Pre-cooked in expeller pressed canola oil.

Nutritional Information (per 6 sticks):

  • Calories: 220
  • Total Fat: 11 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g
  • Sodium: 220 mg (10% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrate: 17 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 2 g
  • Sugars: 1 g
  • Added Sugars: 0 g
  • Protein: 14 g
Trader Joe’s Fish Sticks

*= not provided for the product being compared

Nutrition info per servingGorton’s Fish SticksMrs. Paul’s Fish SticksTrident Seafood Ultimate Fish SticksTrader Joe’s Fish Sticks (lightly breaded, reduced-fat)
Calories:230230170220
Total Fat:10 g10 g8 g11 g
Saturated Fat:1 g1.5 g0.5 g1 g
Sodium:430 mg440 mg310 mg220 mg
Total Carbohydrates:26 g22 g14 g17 g
Fiber:1 g<1 g1 g2 g
Total Sugars:2 g<1 g0 g1 g
Added Sugar:1 g<1 g0 g0 g
Protein:10 g10 g12 g14 g

Trader Joe’s fish sticks are the lowest sodium, but are also the highest in fat among the above products despite being “reduced-fat”. 

Trident fish sticks are the lowest in carbohydrates and are higher in protein than two other popular brands (Gorton’s and Mrs. Paul’s). 

Comparison of Different Types of Fish Sticks 

Nutrition info per servingBaked Breaded Fish Sticks (from frozen) – TridentFried Fish Sticks (adding one tablespoon of olive oil to nutrition stats from the product on the left)Homemade Fish Sticks (Taste of Home recipe)
Calories:170290278
Total Fat:8 g22 g4 g
Saturated Fat:0.5 g2.8 g1 g
Sodium:310 mg310 mg718 mg
Total Carbohydrates:14 g14 g25 g
Fiber:1 g1 g1 g
Total Sugars:0 g0 g2 g
Added Sugar:0 g0 g*
Protein:12 g12 g33 g

Homemade fish sticks can be higher in sodium than store-bought, but this is easily modifiable by using less salt (the recipe used for the comparison was one of the top results in Google).

Fried fish sticks are the highest in fat and calories compared to regular frozen fish sticks and homemade fish sticks.

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What Makes a Food “Healthy”

Calories

If you’re trying to lose weight, you might be paying close attention to the calories in foods.

High-calorie foods are often thought of as “unhealthy”, but this isn’t always the case. What’s more important is where those calories are coming from.

Eating fewer calories than you burn consistently can aid in weight loss. 

Sodium

Processed and ready-to-make foods like crackers can be high in sodium (salt). High-salt diets can worsen chronic health conditions like high blood pressure and kidney disease.

The recommended amount of sodium to eat per day is fewer than 2,300 milligrams, yet the average American eats around 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily.

Foods with fewer than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving are considered low-sodium.

Try to avoid regularly eating foods with more than 20% of the daily value of sodium per serving.

Frozen fish sticks aren’t low in sodium, but most are below 20% of the daily value per serving.

Keep in mind that eating more than one serving at once can easily make it greater than 20% of the daily value.

Fat

There is a lot of debate about the amount of fat to eat in your diet to be healthy.

Foods high in unsaturated fat like the kind found in plants (nuts, seeds, avocados, vegetable oils) are considered healthier than saturated fat (the kind found in butter, meat, and other animal products). 

Saturated fat can raise your bad cholesterol, but it’s not necessarily bad for you. What’s more important is that your diet is well-balanced, low in processed foods with refined ingredients, and coupled with regular physical activity.

Fish sticks are low in saturated fat, so they may be more heart-healthy than fatty meat like burgers and steaks.

Fish Sticks

Fiber

The typical Western diet is high in refined carbohydrates from ingredients like enriched flour and refined sugars.

Most people fall short of the recommended 25-35 grams of fiber per day. A food is considered to be a good source of fiber when it contains at least three grams of fiber per serving.

Fish sticks are breaded with flour, but it’s usually enriched flour so they are low in fiber. Try to choose fish sticks breaded with whole wheat flour to increase the fiber content. 

Sugar

Not all sugar is created equally. Foods are considered healthier when they have natural sugar instead of added sugar. It’s still possible to get too much natural sugar at once, such as from drinking too much fruit juice.

Added sugar intake should be less than 36 grams per day for men and less than 25 grams per day for women according to the American Heart Association.

Fish sticks contain very little to no added sugar per serving, which is one of their main nutritional benefits.

Protein

Foods rich in protein help make you feel full and satisfied, which can aid in weight loss and minimize cravings. Protein also helps build lean muscle and aids in wound healing.

Fish is high in protein, so fish sticks are as well. Most store-bought types of fish sticks provide at least 10 grams of protein per serving which is 20% of the recommended daily value for protein.

Fish Sticks and Your Health

Are Gorton’s Fish Sticks Healthy?

Gorton’s fish sticks provide nearly 20% of the daily value for sodium per serving, which is one of its major nutritional downfalls.

Otherwise, Gorton’s fish sticks are similar to other brands of frozen fish sticks in terms of nutrition.

They aren’t low in fat, but they are low in saturated fat, making them a more heart-healthy choice in terms of fat.

Gorton’s fish sticks use canola oil, which is a better choice compared to corn, cottonseed, and soybean oil.

Are Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks Healthy?

Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks use cottonseed or soybean oils, which aren’t as healthy as canola or olive oils since they are higher in omega-6 fats than omega-3 fats.

They also provide nearly 20% of the daily value for sodium per serving, which is one of their major nutritional downfalls. 

Otherwise, Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks are low in saturated fat and added sugar. 

Are Baked Fish Sticks Healthy?

Baking fish sticks is generally considered healthier because it’s lower in fat. Fat isn’t unhealthy, but too much fat can contribute extra calories to your diet and may precipitate weight gain if it’s not balanced with a well-rounded diet and regular activity.

If you do choose to fry fish sticks, choose a heart-healthy oil like canola, olive, or avocado oil and be mindful that oil is high in calories.

You can always use fish sticks in an air fryer if you want them to be crispy without the added fat. Follow the directions for your particular air fryer for temperature recommendations and cooking time.

Are Breaded Fish Sticks Healthy?

Fish sticks are breaded by nature – otherwise, they wouldn’t be considered fish sticks. Breading adds carbohydrates, typically from enriched flour.

Enriched flour is low in nutrients, so it’s usually enriched with nutrients to make up for it. Enriched flour is low in fiber as well; fiber is an important nutrient for heart and gut health. 

If you do choose fish sticks, try to choose brands that use whole wheat flour to help boost the fiber content.

Fish sticks can be a good way to introduce fish to toddlers, who normally don’t like the taste of plain fish.

Fish sticks are also safe to eat during pregnancy as long as they’re fully cooked. Eating a diet rich in low-mercury fish (like the kind most often used in fish sticks) can help provide beneficial fatty acids that help with fetal brain development.

Fish sticks provide high-quality protein, which is beneficial for promoting lean muscle mass. Athletes and bodybuilders can have increased protein needs to support their muscle mass, so fish sticks can help provide some of that protein.

Are Trident Fish Sticks Healthy?

Trident fish sticks are lower in sodium compared to other popular brands of frozen fish sticks. Considering other aspects of their nutritional value are similar to other popular brands, Trident fish sticks are one of the healthier types of frozen fish sticks.

Are Frozen Fish Sticks Unhealthy?

Frozen fish sticks aren’t as healthy as less-processed fish like baked or lightly fried fish fillets. Processing foods increase their sodium content and can add extra carbohydrates, such as in the form of breading in fish sticks.

Fish sticks aren’t necessarily unhealthy, but there are many healthier forms of protein that are much less processed and healthier.

What is the Healthiest Fish Stick?

Trident’s fish sticks are one of the best options among frozen fish stick brands. Compared to other popular brands, Trident’s fish sticks are lower in sodium per serving and they use whole wheat flour for breading instead of enriched flour.

Protein doesn’t raise blood sugar levels as significantly as carbohydrates. Foods rich in protein and not high in carbohydrates such as fish sticks may be beneficial for people who have diabetes.

People with diabetes should opt for fish sticks lower in sodium and carbohydrates when comparing different brands.

Which is Healthier – Fish Sticks or Chicken Nuggets?

Here is a comparison of Trident fish sticks and two different types of breaded chicken nuggets:

Nutrition info per servingTrident Fish SticksPerdue Simply Smart Organics Lightly Breaded Chicken NuggetsYummy Dino Buddies chicken nuggets
Calories:170190180
Total Fat:8 g12 g9 g
Saturated Fat:0.5 g2.5 g1.5 g
Sodium:310 mg430 mg360 mg
Total Carbohydrates:14 g7 g15 g
Fiber:1 g0 g<1 g
Total Sugars:0 g*0 g
Added Sugar:0 g*0 g
Protein:12 g15 g9 g

As you can see, it depends on the type of chicken nuggets and fish sticks being compared to determine which is healthier.

In general, fish sticks and chicken nuggets have similar nutrition statistics, so it’s difficult to say which one is healthier.

Fish is generally considered more heart-healthy than chicken, so they might have a slight advantage nutrition-wise.

Healthier Alternatives to Fish Sticks

1.Trident Alaska Salmon Burgers

Ingredients:

  • Pink and/or Keta Salmon
  • Vegetable Oil (Canola and/or Soybean)
  • Water
  • Contains 2% or Less of: Ground Onion, Salt, Potato Extract, Garlic Powder, Mustard Flour, White Pepper, Beet Juice (Color), Annatto (Color), Rosemary Extract, Mesquite Flavor, Lemon Juice Concentrate

Nutritional Information (per one burger):

  • Calories: 120
  • Total Fat: 6 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g
  • Sodium: 230 mg (10% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrate: 1 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Total Sugars: 0 g
  • Added Sugars: 0 g
  • Protein: 14 g

Trident Alaska Salmon Burgers

2.Member’s Mark Tilapia Fillets (Frozen)

Ingredients:

  • Tilapia

Nutritional Information (per four ounces):

  • Calories: 90
  • Total Fat: 1.5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.5 g
  • Sodium: 180 mg (8% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrate: 0 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Total Sugars: 0 g
  • Added Sugars: 0 g
  • Protein: 18 g
Mark Tilapia Fillets

3. Wild Caught Cod Portions (Fresh) 

Ingredients:

  • Cod

Nutritional Information: not available for fresh fish, but per USDA:

Nutritional Information (per one fillet):

  • Calories: 189
  • Total Fat: 1.5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.3 g
  • Sodium: 125 mg (5% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrate: 0 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Total Sugars: 0 g
  • Added Sugars: 0 g
  • Protein: 41 g
Wild Caught Cod Portions (fresh
Nutrition info per servingTrident Alaska Salmon BurgersMember’s Mark Tilapia Fillets (frozen)Fresh cod
Calories:12090189
Total Fat:6 g1.5 g1.5 g
Saturated Fat:1 g0.5 g0.3 g
Sodium:230 mg180 mg125 mg
Total Carbohydrates:1 g0 g0 g
Fiber:1 g0 g0 g
Total Sugars:1 g0 g0 g
Added Sugar:0 g0 g0 g
Protein:14 g18 g41 g

These options are lower in sodium than most types of fish sticks while being low in saturated fat and rich in protein.

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