Dr. Nita Landry has been engaged by the National Fisheries Institute to provide her honest professional perspective on the health benefits of eating seafood.
I recently had lunch with a friend who is newly pregnant. She is over the moon! During our lunch, she excitedly laid out all of the lifestyle changes she is making to ensure a healthy pregnancy (I must admit, her list is impressive!). Then, the waiter came to the table to go over the menu. When he started to make seafood recommendations, she said, “Absolutely no seafood; I’m pregnant.”
I quickly told her, “You should absolutely eat seafood while you are pregnant and breastfeeding.” She was surprised (and extremely happy!). See, many pregnant and breastfeeding women don’t know that seafood IS NOT on the “do not eat” list! In fact, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, seafood is on the “please, do eat” list!
So, no more wondering. Here are the basic facts:
Why should I eat seafood while I’m pregnant or breastfeeding? Seafood is especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as young children, because it is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are critical for eye and brain development. In fact, 50% of the fat in a baby’s brain is made up of DHA, the omega-3 fat found in seafood. So eating adequate amounts of delicious seafood can be one way to boost your child’s IQ! #Win
Which types of fish should I eat while pregnant or breastfeeding? Most varieties of store-bought and restaurant seafood are safe to eat during pregnancy. For example, the following selections are great options…and this isn’t even the entire list!
On the other hand, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, you should avoid a few types of fish. For example: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish should be avoided. Ask your doctor for a complete, updated list of seafood to eat during pregnancy.
Instead of eating fish, can’t I just take an Omega-3 supplement? An Omega- 3 supplement won’t give you the protein, minerals, and nutrients found in fish. There are ongoing studies regarding the health benefits of Omega-3 supplements.
Can pregnant women or young children eat raw or undercooked seafood? No, pregnant women and children have weaker immune systems. All of their seafood should be thoroughly cooked.
OK, you convinced me. So how much fish should I eat per week? For the types of fish/ shellfish listed above, women should eat 2-3 servings (about 8-12 ounces) per week while pregnant or breastfeeding. It’s best to eat a variety of fish, instead of sticking to one type. So remember to be adventurous!
*Of note, the average pregnant women in the U.S. eats less than 2 ounces of seafood per week. That means many pregnant and breastfeeding women actually need to quadruple their weekly seafood intake!
What is a serving size? For an adult, a serving size is 4 ounces measured before cooking. The FDA has supplied an easy way for you to determine a serving size:
We eat fish caught by family and friends. Is that safe? You should check for advisories prior to eating fish caught by family and friends. If no advisories exist, eat one serving of the fish and avoid eating any other fish that week.
Is it a good idea for men and women to eat fish even if they are not pregnant/ planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding? Absolutely! The 2015 Dietary Guidelines encourages all Americans to eat at least 2 servings (or 8 ounces) of seafood each week. Seafood benefits your heart, eyes, and brain.
What about if I’m breastfeeding? See above answer. You’re good to go.
I’m very busy. I don’t have time to cook elaborate seafood dishes. As women, we are busy! So I can understand that! Thankfully, eating canned or pouch tuna and salmon is a safe, convenient, and affordable way to get the nutrition from seafood without an hour of preparation. You can also incorporate more seafood into your diet by swapping out the protein from your favorite dish. Chicken tacos become fish tacos, and grilled steak salad becomes grilled shrimp salad. To help you get started, here are a few delicious recipes:
If you use any of these recipes, be sure to post a picture of your food beneath this post. Food pics are welcome here. Or, if you have any recipes you want to share with the world, post those below as well!
Moral of the story: When you are pregnant or breastfeeding, “seafood” is not a dirty word! #DrNita