Right up there with folic acid and protein, omega-3s are need-to-have nutrients during pregnancy. And the best source of these healthy oils is seafood. The type of omega-3s in seafood – called DHA – serve as building blocks for a growing baby’s brain. Eating seafood 2-3 times each week during pregnancy can bump up children’s IQ’s and it can also help keep moms’ brain healthy and reduce the risk of depression during pregnancy. Here are a few tips to make sure you and your baby get plenty of seafood to reap the brain-boosting benefits:
- Eat the type of seafood you like – just more often. Confusing fish lists abound, but fish advice for moms-to-be is a lot simpler than a Google search may make it seem. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans say to eat a variety of cooked seafood 2-3 times each week. Popular types like shrimp, canned tuna, salmon, and tilapia are all safe and healthy choices. There are only four higher-mercury choices to avoid, and the easy part is that most Americans rarely eat these fish anyway – shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. The average pregnant woman in the U.S. eats less than half a serving of seafood each week, so simply focus on eating the types of fish you already know and love, just more often.
- All types of seafood – frozen, fresh, and canned – count. It’s easy to forget that fish is found in three places in the grocery store. Of course, the seafood counter, but also the canned goods aisle and the freezer section. It doesn’t matter which one you choose – all contain the nutrients, like omega-3s, that make seafood such a smart choice. Stock your kitchen with a variety of seafood options so you have a go-to no matter what you’re in the mood for.
- Consider seafood as an add-on to meals, not always the main dish. One of the most effortless ways to eat more seafood is to add it to meals you already make. Top your rice and veggie bowl with a handful of sautéed shrimp. Add a can of tuna to your snack of smashed avocado and crackers. Seafood not only ups the omega-3s of any meal, it also provides a satisfying serving of protein.
These are all great habits that will serve you well straight through breastfeeding, which continues to be a critical time to get plenty of the nutrients, like omega-3s, found in fish.
Jennifer McGuire, MS, RD
Jennifer McGuire, MS, RD has a decade of experience writing and talking about healthful food. A respected nutrition resource for the media, fellow healthcare professionals, policymakers, and food companies including the National Fisheries Institute, Jennifer is passionate about helping families figure out mealtime. She lives in Dallas with her husband and two young sons.