Fish is Not Off Limits During Pregnancy

By Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, LDN

Eating fish during pregnancy is not off limits. In fact, avoiding fish during this critical time of growth and development may lead to a lack of essential nutrients that can impact growth and development of your baby. For years the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided recommendations on the amount of fish pregnant women needed to limit themselves to per week. However, providing a cap on dietary fish intake without setting a minimum recommendation made many women hesitant to consume fish during pregnancy and made many health care providers hesitant to recommend it. But with the release of a draft update from the FDA and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this may change.

Research has found that eating fish with lower levels of mercury, such as cod, pollock, salmon, and shrimp, provides many dietary and health benefits during pregnancy, as well as to young children. The new draft recommends consuming at least 8 ounces and up to 12 ounces of fish that are lower in mercury per week during pregnancy to help support fetal growth and development. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are still cautioned to avoid fish that contain a high mercury levels such as shark, swordfish, and king mackerel. The new draft also recommends limiting white (albacore) tuna to six ounces per week.

This draft is an exciting development in nutrition recommendations for during pregnancy. Setting clear cut guidelines on the appropriate amount of fish, and the best types, to consume allows moms-to-be breathe a sigh of relief when planning their meals. Fish low in mercury is an excellent source of lean protein as well as omega-3 fatty acids, both essential nutrients for a growing baby. During pregnancy, if you’re looking for delicious and easy ways to work seafood into your meal plan, discover some of these recipes from Matlaw’s.