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FDA Updates Recommendations for Fish Consumption in Pregnancy

Faith Bontrager, RN, BSN

Faith Bontrager, RN, BSNFaith's passion in nursing is to help people find the options they need to discover their personal path to optimum health. Ask her friends and they will tell you that their appreciation of nutritious food has grown through Faith. About Faith Bontrager, RN, BSN


A Healthy Pregnancy

FDA Updates Recommendations for Fish Consumption in Pregnancy

a fresh filet of salmon on a cutting board accompanied by cloves of garlic, a wedge of lemon, and rosemary

On July 2, 2019 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated their recommendations for fish consumption for pregnant women. The recommendation reaffirmed that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should eat 8 to 12 ounces of seafood per week and choose from seafood that is lower in mercury. This is slightly more than the 8 ounces per week dietary guidelines for most Americans.

What about mercury?

While it is important to limit mercury exposure, it is possible to get excellent nutrition from seafood while consuming fish that are low in mercury. Here's how.

Watch your serving sizes

A serving of fish is about 4 ounces. This is about the size of your checkbook (for a thin fillet), or for thicker cuts think of a deck of cards. So, 8 to 12 ounces translates into eating fish two to three times per week.

Choose wisely

Your best choices start with salmon, flounder, sea bass, fresh water trout, mullet, and shellfish like scallops and shrimp. Here's guidance from the FDA.

Why should you include fish in your diet? It's a good source of protein and of healthy omega-3 fats, and is high in iron and other nutrients. Best of all, fish doesn't require a long cooking time (don't overcook it!) which may make it a great option for busy days.

What about tuna? Canned light tuna is easily available, often low in cost, is stable on your shelf and low in mercury - one of your best choices Albacore and yellow fin tuna are higher in mercury and should be limited to no more than once a week. Big eye tuna is even higher in mercury and should be avoided. Like all types of foods, include a variety of fish and shellfish for great nutrition.

Did the FDA change the recommendation on raw fish? No. Pregnant women are at higher risk for foodborne infections, so they should still avoid raw fish.

Like to go fishing yourself? Fishing can provide some exercise and can be effective stress reduction, both of which can be good for you and baby. Just check for fish advisories in your area (information provided by the EPA).

Need some ideas? Here is Dr. Gourmet's healthy fish recipe section for some great dinner ideas. One of my favorites is Maple Glazed Salmon with Lentils. In addition to salmon, it includes legumes and yellow vegetables: all great pregnancy foods.