Congrats, mama- or papa-to-be! For all you expectant readers out there, you are about to embark on an incredible journey! We know that figuring out what to eat (and what not to eat) during pregnancy can be confusing and sometimes overwhelming. We get asked a lot about whether it’s safe for pregnant women to eat seafood, so we thought it would be helpful to share the latest science and recommendations on the subject.
The bottom line: Can I eat seafood while I’m pregnant?
Yes! Not only can you eat seafood during pregnancy, you should. Studies show that eating seafood at least 2-3 times each week provides the nutrients you and your baby need for a healthy pregnancy and for the baby’s optimal development. Seafood is rich in protein, calcium, B vitamins, iron, selenium, vitamin D and other beneficial nutrients. Plus, seafood is the premier dietary source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which help baby’s brain and eyes develop properly. Omega-3s also are important for mom’s heart and brain and may help prevent postpartum depression. So, it’s clear to see that seafood is a win-win food for mom and baby!
Unfortunately, American moms-to-be don’t eat nearly enough seafood. Studies show that the average pregnant woman in the U.S. eats less than 2 ounces of seafood each week, a far cry from the 8-12 ounces recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Eating too little seafood during pregnancy may cause you – as well as your baby – to miss out on critical nutrients.
What are some of the health benefits of seafood?
There are many! Here are just a few:
- Optimal brain development in baby
- Healthy eye formation in baby
- Swifter progress toward major infant milestones, like recognizing faces and holding up head
- Reduced risk of postpartum depression in mom
- Improved heart and brain health for mom
What seafood is safe to eat?
All commonly consumed seafood in the U.S. is safe for pregnant women to eat, including the following:
- Atlantic and Pacific mackerel
- Canned tuna
If you are pregnant, avoid raw seafood! Make sure that any fish you are planning to eat has been cooked thoroughly – it should reach an internal minimum temperature of 145 degrees F.
Is there any kind of seafood I should avoid?
The following fish should be avoided because they are higher in mercury, which can be harmful at high levels:
- King mackerel
- Orange roughy
- Bigeye tuna (found in sushi)
Most Americans do not typically eat these fish, and there are many other seafood options you can enjoy.
Speaking of sushi, can I eat it while I’m pregnant?
First, remember that pregnant women should avoid all raw seafood and raw meat. You can enjoy sushi during pregnancy, but only sushi that contains vegetables and/or cooked seafood, not raw seafood. Ask the chef or look for cooked-fish labeling on store-bought sushi.
Now, the real question.
Now that you know that the most-commonly consumed seafood is safe and beneficial for you and your baby to eat – as long as it is thoroughly cooked – the real question might be, “With so much seafood to choose from, how do I decide which to eat?”
The answer is simple: Feel free to try several different varieties. You can start by substituting various types of seafood in place of meat or poultry in some of your favorite dishes. For example, beef tacos become shrimp or fish tacos, hamburgers become salmon burgers, and chicken quesadillas turn into tuna quesadillas. Changes like this also will make it easier to get to your recommended 2-3 servings of seafood each week.
Need some more tips on eating seafood while you’re pregnant? We’ve got you covered. It’s important to note that the nutrients you can get from seafood are beneficial not only during pregnancy, but also during breastfeeding and throughout the baby’s early years. And introducing fish to your baby during the toddler stage will help promote healthy eating habits later in life.
For more information, check out The Pregnant Woman’s Guide to Eating Seafood.