By Ali Lopez
MRG Contributor

Today I’d like to chat with you about one of my favorite protein sources for runners.  Protein is crucial for recovery and helping your muscles repair after training or a race. Salmon is an especially awesome choice since it’s also a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which help decrease inflammation –  really important for runners! Some of the other benefits of salmon are Vitamin D, B12, B6 and potassium.

Wild or Farmed?

I prefer wild salmon for a few reasons. Wild Alaskan salmon spend most of their lives in open oceans and they usually have very low levels of toxins. Coastal and farmed salmon, depending on what they are fed, may have higher levels. The Environmental Defense Fund lists farmed Atlantic salmon as an “Eco-Worst” choice and recommends people eat no more than two servings a month due to high PCB levels.

Wild salmon is also more nutritious in terms of fat and protein content. Wild fish contain 20% more protein, 20% less fat than farmed salmon.

Check out this comparison:



You can get wild salmon, fresh or frozen. Also, canned wild salmon is an excellent and economical choice.

Wild salmon has a rich flavor that doesn’t need much done to it to make it tasty.  Sometimes I just season fillets with salt and pepper, then cook them on medium-high in a skillet lightly coated with olive oil (four minutes per side). And serve them with lemon wedges.

Sometimes though I like to bake it in the oven. Here’s an awesome way to try that — you can change up the asparagus when it isn’t in season.

IMG_0555One Pan Salmon Dinner

1 pound wild Alaskan Salmon (preferably), skin on

1 pound potatoes (red, white or sweet))

1 pound asparagus, woody stems removed

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 tablespoon your favorite mustard

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425. Line a 13 x 18 inch sheet pan with aluminum foil. Mix the lemon juice and mustard together. Season with salt and pepper. Place the salmon on the sheet pan and rub with the mustard sauce. Season with salt and black pepper. Thinly slice the potatoes and place in a bowl with the asparagus. Drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Scatter the vegetables on the sheet pan as evenly as possible around the fish. Bake the salmon and vegetables for 15-20 minutes or until desired doneness, checking the cook time around the 10 minute mark.

If you have any leftovers you can make salmon tacos, or top a salad with cooked salmon.

What about canned salmon? I love the convenience of canned wild salmon and health-wise it is a much better choice for you than canned tuna. Anything you can make with a can of tuna is even better with a can of wild salmon. I love to make these quick salmon cakes. You can make them burger size and they are a great meal. You can serve them on a bun or on top of a bed of spinach! Or you can make them slider size and serve them for appetizers, topped with a creamy avocado yogurt sauce. I also decided to replace the breadcrumbs with the superfood quinoa. Makes them healthier and gluten free!

IMG_0556Quick Salmon Burgers

1/2 cup cooked quinoa, cooled

1 (7.5 oz.) can wild salmon

1 egg

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2-3 scallions, sliced

salt and pepper, to taste

lemon wedges

Olive Oil, for cooking

To cook quinoa: In a saucepan combine the 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then  reduce heat to low. Cook until the quinoa absorbs the liquid. About 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside covered for 5 minutes. You will have extra. Allow to cool before using in recipe.

Combine quinoa, salmon, mustard, scallions and egg. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide evenly to form whatever size burgers you like.

Tip: I like to use a measuring cup 1/4 or 1/3 cup size, depending on what size burger you want. It helps keep them a uniform size and they hold together nicely.

Place the burgers on a tray or plate and pop into the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This helps them firm up and hold together better when cooking.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, place burgers into the pan and cook for about 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown.  Remove them from the pan and squeeze some lemon over them. Serve with yogurt sauce if you like.

Avocado Yogurt Sauce

1 avocado

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 garlic clove

1-2 tablespoons lemon juice

salt and pepper , to taste

water, as needed

Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Add water as needed to reach desired consistency.

Have a fueling question for Ali? Post it below in the comments section or email MRG with your healthy-eating questions at michiganrunnergirl [at] gmail [dot] com 

Ali will answer your questions in upcoming columns here on MRG. You can read her post about the Power of Smoothies, here »  She’s also written about superfoods and shares a great recipe for kale salad here »


Ali Lopez is a northern Michigan runner, chef and health coach. You can learn more about her at her web site Healthy Chef Ali. She’s also on Facebook here »

You can listen to a conversation about running and eating between Ali and Heather on a recent MRG podcast episode here »

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