Congratulations on your pregnancy! There is so much to know about eating well for a healthy pregnancy, but the number one question that comes up is, "Can I eat fish?"
In the past, mixed messages came out from nutrition authorities leaving women confused and avoiding fish altogether. However, it's important to know that the recommendation is to eat 2-3 servings of fish per week during pregnancy.
A serving of fish is not a lot. Typically, a serving size is 4 oz. for anyone over the age of 10 years old. You can estimate 4 oz. by choosing a filet that's about the size of the palm of your hand.
1 serving = 4 oz = the size of the palm of your hand
Fish is important for children, too. For an infant 6 months to 1 year, small shredded pieces of fish is a good source of iron.
For children 1-3 years old, a serving is 1 oz.
For children 4-7 years old, a serving is 2 oz.
For children 8-10 years old, a serving is 3 oz.
Importance of Fish in the Diet
Fish is important for the baby's brain development and growth. It provides vitamins, minerals, and lean protein that are especially important during pregnancy to ensure both mom and baby are healthy.
Some of the nutrients that fish provide during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and early childhood to support a child’s brain development include:
omega-3 (DHA and EPA) and omega-6 fats
Choline also supports development of the baby’s spinal cord, while iron and zinc build up a child’s immune system.
Fish also offer protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and selenium, nutrients important throughout the lifecycle.
Fish to Eat Most Often
The best fish choices during pregnancy include:
Canned, light tuna
These fish have the most omega-3 fatty acids which contribute to neuro-development of the baby. They can also help the mother's iron stores and cardiovascular, eye, brain, and mental health(1).
Fish to Avoid
However, there is the potential for mercury poisoning from bigger fish and the FDA advises pregnant women avoid these fish:
Gulf of Mexico Tilefish
You can refer to the FDA chart below for how often you should eat other types of fish.
What about fish caught by family or friends?
Check local and state advisories about fish caught locally. If there are no advisories available, limit carp, catfish, perch, and trout to only one serving a week and don't eat any other fish that week, as these tend to be higher in mercury or other contaminants.
For help planning nutrition during your pregnancy, you can book an appointment with a Registered Dietitian at ZESTNutritionService.com.
(1) U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2018). Questions and Answers from the FDA/EPA Advice on What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know About Eating Fish. FDA.gov.
(2) National Institutes of Health. (2018). Omega-3 Fatty Acids. NIH.gov. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/#h7