Seafood: A Powerhouse Pregnancy Food

Posted On Friday, 16 February 2018
Seafood: A Powerhouse Pregnancy Food

Expecting and new parents are used to getting all things new: new nursery furniture, new tiny clothes, new diapers, and, like it or not, an onslaught of new information.

But, as well intentioned as it may be, much of the “wisdom” shared with parents-to-be is confusing and can be inaccurate, especially when it comes to food.

Let’s start by clearing the water with some science-based facts about one of the most misunderstood powerhouse pregnancy foods: seafood.

1) Most pregnant women need to quadruple the amount of seafood they eat.

Seafood is one of the only foods rich in a healthy oil called omega-3 DHA. Omega-3 DHA serves as a building block for brain and eye development. Other nutrients found in seafood – including protein, calcium, vitamin D and iron – help build bones and muscles.

Guidelines recommend – and research proves – that moms-to-be should eat seafood 2-3 times each week (8-12 ounces total) during pregnancy for the health benefits to both mom and baby. Yet, on average, pregnant women in America eat less than half a serving (2 ounces) of seafood each week. Pregnant moms who do meet that recommendation weekly have babies who meet milestones like copying sounds and climbing stairs more quickly.

Try these cravable snack and meal ideas to get closer to the seafood goal:

  • Tuna toast: Top a toasted English muffin with canned tuna and avocado.
  • Salmon mac-n-cheese: Add salmon and broccoli bulk up mac-n-cheese.
  • Shrimp pasta: Mix shrimp, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, and kale with whole wheat pasta.

2) The most popular types of seafood in the U.S. are all safe and healthy to eat during pregnancy.

The top ten species of seafood are good choices for moms-to-be:

  1. Shrimp
  2. Salmon
  3. Canned/pouched tuna
  4. Tilapia
  5. Pollock
  6. Pangasius
  7. Cod
  8. Crab
  9. Catfish
  10. Clams
The following fish should be avoided because they are higher in mercury, which can be harmful at very high levels:

  1. Shark
  2. Swordfish
  3. King mackerel
  4. Tilefish
  5. Bigeye tuna
  6. Marlin
  7. Orange roughy

3) Pregnant women can – and should – eat cooked sushi.

The thing that gives sushi a bad rap is that pregnant women should not eat any raw meats – including seafood – to reduce their risk of getting sick from food. But, no need for moms-to-be to swear off sushi if they simply choose kinds made with vegetables and cooked seafood. Seafood can be a smart choice when eating out in general, especially for people still learning how to cook fish at home.

In addition to cooked sushi, look for the following popular and healthy seafood menu items:

  • Seafood tacos
  • Fish burgers and sliders
  • Seafood pasta
  • Shrimp stir-fry
  • Mac-n-cheese with lobster, tuna or salmon
  • Grilled fish kabobs
As it turns out, the advice about eating seafood during pregnancy is simple. Moms-to-be should aim to enjoy a variety of cooked seafood 2-3 times each week to boost their babies’ brain development. For more information and delicious ideas about eating seafood for expectant and new parents, bring up the “The Pregnant Woman’s Guide to Eating Seafood” on your mobile phone. Yes, it is more information, but instead of leaving you feeling overwhelmed and unclear, it will make you confident, empowered, and hungry.

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 three young sons.


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