Should I Eat Fish During Pregnancy?

Should I Eat Fish During Pregnancy?

(And Other Nutrition Questions Answered!)

By Mary Saucier Choate

Pregnant women and new moms will find the new Myplate.gov website to be a reliable, science-based, consumer-friendly nutrition information center for feeding themselves and nourishing their new baby.

Look here for a personalized “Daily Food Plan for Moms” based on your age, prepregnancy height and weight, due date and trimester. (Talk about comprehensive!) Think your diet is okay, but want to make it better? Use the “Food Planner for Moms” tool to see how your current food choices measure up.

Commonly asked questions such as: “How much should I gain? Should I take a supplement? What should I eat while breastfeeding?” are all answered with trustworthy information, and links are provided to other reliable websites.

If you are wondering, “Is it safe to eat seafood while I’m pregnant?” the MyPlate site is the source for reliable information. Some websites scare a pregnant woman into eating no fish at all. This is a shame, because seafood offers many nutritional plusses to mother and baby, including protein, iron, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. Fish consumption by pregnant women may provide benefits to the child’s developing nervous and visual systems among other emerging benefits.

Bottom line: Pregnant women can safely eat up to 12 ounces a week (two average meals) of low mercury seafood. These include shrimp, salmon, pollock, tilapia, catfish, canned mackerel, sardines and canned light tuna, to name a few. 

It is important to avoid some types of fish: those that are high in mercury and those fish that local anglers catch from certain toxin-contaminated lakes and rivers.

The high mercury fish that pregnant women are advised to avoid completely are: swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish. White tuna (albacore) has more mercury than light tuna, so albacore tuna should be limited to 6 ounces per week. 

Sadly, many of our beautiful lakes, streams and rivers contain harmful chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins. Fish caught in these waters also contain these chemicals. Local government advisories recommend that people limit or avoid eating some types of fish caught in certain places. You can find these advisories online by searching for “[your state] fish advisories” or contact your local fish and game department.

Be the first expecting or breastfeeding mom in your group to check out this Mom-friendly and reliable website. It can do a lot to answer the important questions you have now, throughout, and after your healthy pregnancy.

Mary Saucier Choate, M.S., R.D., L.D. is the staff dietitian at the Co-op Food Stores in Hanover and Lebanon, N.H., and White River Junction, Vt. She can be reached via email at comment@coopfoodstore.com; simply note that it’s a question for the dietitian.

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