Fish is a Key Part of a Healthy Pregnancy Diet

Avoiding fish during pregnancy means missing out on critical nutrients. Find out why eating fish can produce a lifetime of health benefits for you and your baby.

  • Eat at least two servings of fish a week to improve your and your baby’s health.

    Do I need to be concerned about mercury in fish?

    American women do not need to worry about eating fish during pregnancy. Researchers have evaluated fish consumption during pregnancy, taking into account any traces of mercury along with its beneficial nutrients like selenium, which is thought to neutralize the effects of mercury. After reviewing the science, experts concluded that pregnant and breastfeeding women eat no less than two servings of fish per week. The USDA and HHS concur, making this recommendation a part of the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

    For pregnant or breastfeeding women, there are just four exotic and rarely eaten fish to avoid – shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. These fish are not commonly available or eaten in the U.S. Women who eat fish caught by friends or family from local lakes, rivers or ponds are advised to check their state’s EPA site.

  • Fish provides critical nutrients that enhance your baby’s eye and brain development.

    What happens if I skip fish during pregnancy just to be safe?

    Fish provides critical nutrients to both moms-to-be and their developing babies. The benefits of eating a diet rich in fish include improved brain and eye development for babies, and improvements in heart health, depression and anxiety for moms.

    By avoiding fish, both mom and baby are missing out on omega-3 fatty acids, and the resulting deficiency could compromise baby’s development and mom’s health. To safeguard their health and their babies’ health, pregnant and breastfeeding women should eat no less than two servings of fish each week.

  • For a quick and easy way to get your minimum two servings of fish a week, try adding canned or pouch tuna to a salad or sandwich.

    I've heard I shouldn't eat tuna because of mercury. What's the truth?

    Research shows you can eat canned tuna as part of a healthy pregnancy diet, which should include at least two servings of fish per week. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans note that pregnant and breastfeeding women can eat one to two servings (6 ounces) of albacore (white) tuna; light tuna has no restrictions. Canned or pouch tuna is a convenient and easy way to get the recommended amount of fish each week.

  • Give your baby the best start to life by eating a diet rich in fish.

    Why is fish so beneficial for pregnant women?

    Recent evidence shows eating fish has significant health benefits for pregnant women and their babies such as reduced anxiety, improved heart health and improved brain and eye development. Studies have shown that babies born to mothers who ate an abundant amount of fish during their pregnancy reached milestones earlier than the babies whose mothers ate little or no fish.

    And, the benefits of eating fish don’t end when the baby is born. Fish increases the amount of omega-3s, such as DHA, in a mother’s breast milk. Studies have shown that babies born to mothers who ate an abundant amount of fish during their pregnancy reached milestones earlier than the babies whose mothers ate little or no fish.

  • Try frozen or canned fish, which are convenient options just as healthful as fresh fish.

    Are some fish better than others?

    All fish help you meet your omega-3 needs. Eat at least two servings of a variety of fish each week, including some high omega-3 types like salmon, canned white (albacore) tuna, mackerel, sardines, trout and anchovies.

  • Fish is a low-calorie, lean protein that provides essential nutrients for you and your baby.

    Can’t I just take a supplement to get my omega-3s?

    No. While supplements do contain omega-3 fatty acids, they do not provide other abundant healthy nutrients found in fish, such as protein, selenium and B vitamins. A majority of the studies that support the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids have found that these benefits come from fish consumption, not fish oil supplements.

  • Make fish for just two out of your 21 weekly meals for big health benefits.

    I find fish difficult to prepare. How can I easily make it?

    • Use convenient options, such as canned, pouch or frozen fish, which are just as healthful as fresh and easier to buy and store.
    • Take recipes you’re already familiar with and replace the usual protein with fish. For example, beef burgers become salmon burgers, chicken tacos become tilapia tacos, or cheese quesadillas become canned tuna quesadillas.
    • Try eating your tuna or crab salad on whole wheat bread or pita with some creative and craveable mix-ins like:
      • Avocados
      • Cream cheese
      • Diced apples, celery, carrots or jalapeño
      • Balsamic vinegar
      • Dried fruit like cherries or cranberries
  • Start eating fish now to give your baby, family, and yourself healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.

    How do I get the rest of the family to eat fish?

    To meet the goal of fish twice a week, try serving it consistently for dinner on the same night each week. You can also think beyond dinner. For example, whip up a bowl of tuna salad as a dip with whole-grain crackers for an easy lunch or afterschool snack.

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