Is Shrimp the New Chicken?

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Shrimp ranks among Americans’ favorite seafood. While the mini-crustaceans may be small, they pack big nutritional punch. A bonus: One jumbo shrimp supplies only 14 calories, which means a half-dozen (about 3 oz.) add up to 84 calories—about 15 less than a 3-ounce chicken breast (about the size of a deck of cards).

“Shrimp is a good source of lean protein, vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, selenium and zinc,” says registered dietitian Sayde Beeler. “And like chicken, it’s highly versatile in the kitchen and acts almost as a blank canvas, picking up flavors from other ingredients.”

Fine-dining chefs have always known that shrimp can take on a dizzying variety of flavors – just as happy in a Chinese stir-fry as an Italian pasta dish; a Spanish paella or a Cajun gumbo.

But what busy home cooks should know is that it’s so quick cooking. Once prepped and seasoned, it takes just 3-4 minutes on the grill, broiler or in a sauté pan. It can even cook itself when submerged in a bowl with lemon juice or lime juice (perfect for a quick ceviche).

Prefer to prep with frozen crustaceans? Shrimp can go from freezer to stockpot or steamer without thawing. Once they turn pink, you can stop the cooking process (and prevent tough shrimp) by immersing them briefly in ice water.

Ready to get cooking and incorporate more shrimp into your dinnertime repertoire? Try these simple dishes or meal ideas:

  • Heat up the wok and stir-fry them
  • Use them in a pasta dish, like a warm penne cooked with asparagus and flavored with saffron or your favorite cold pasta salad. Or try this healthy Shrimp & Chicken “Caulifredo” Pasta recipe.
  • Roll them up into homemade spring rolls or to scoop into lettuce wraps with spices and chopped peanuts
  • Toss them in a green salad, like a shrimp, avocado and spinach salad.
  • Assemble vegetable and shrimp kabobs and throw them on the grill.
  • Incorporate baby shrimp in omelets, frittatas, salads and soup.
  • Use them as a sandwich filling in place of tuna.
  • Make a spicy shrimp curry to serve over brown rice.
  • Cook up a tasty gumbo with shrimp in your slow cooker.

And while recent research has shown, happily, that shrimp doesn’t adversely affect cholesterol levels, there is a small downside for some: While shrimp is nutrient-rich, it’s also highly allergenic. In fact, people who are allergic to shrimp may experience severe, even life-threatening reactions. More mild reactions may include a stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy skin, hives, tingling in the mouth, abdominal pain, and nausea.

Even if you’ve been safely eating shrimp for decades, you can still develop an allergy, says Beeler. So, if you have an odd reaction after dining on shrimp, see an allergist for testing.

Finally, if you’re concerned about the source of your shrimp, check the website Seafood Watch for responsibly-sourced options.


For more nutrition advice and tips, check out our EatWell section, and subscribe so you don’t miss anything.

Sayde Beeler, RDN, specializes in nutrition counseling and health coaching at Henry Ford Health System’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

Heart Smart® is a registered trademark of the Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute.

Categories: EatWell