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Eating right for two: Is it safe to eat fish while pregnant?

Salmon and asparagus
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Written by Annie Hoang

Eating should be healthful and enjoyable and it should not be a struggle to figure out what to eat when pregnant. Annie Hoang, Sunnybrook dietitian, suggests three steps to take the fight out of food:

  1. Spot the problem
  2. Get the facts
  3. Seek support

As a pregnant woman, you are likely receiving lots of advice about what to do, including what to eat. There is an overwhelming amount of information from friends, family, television, magazines, websites, and more. No wonder it can be a struggle to figure out what you should be eating for a healthy pregnancy. One common question is whether fish is safe to eat during pregnancy.

1. Spot the problem:

There is confusion about fish in pregnancy. Is it safe to eat fish while pregnant? How much, and what types of fish are recommended?

2. Get the facts:

Fish can be a healthy source of protein, fat, and omega-3 fats for mom and baby. Omega-3 fats such as EPA and DHA are important for the healthy development of baby’s brain, nerves and eyes. Pregnant women are recommended to eat two servings of low mercury fish per week. One serving of fish is about 75g (2.5 oz), ½ cup, or the size of the palm of your hand.

Pregnant women should choose low mercury fish such as basa, arctic char, herring, salmon, sardines, trout, or canned light tuna. Clams, mussels, scallops and shrimp are low in mercury too. Avoid large predator fish such as shark, marlin, pickerel, and tuna steak as they contain high mercury levels.

Some people also wonder if raw fish is safe in pregnancy. The main concern about raw fish is the risk of food-borne illness. Raw fish can be safe to eat in moderation as long as it is coming from a reputable source, stored and handled safely, and eaten within a few days. It is still important to choose a low mercury fish whether raw or cooked.

3. Seek support:

To learn more about mercury levels in fish, take a look at this information sheet from Toronto Public Health.

For more information about food-borne illness, read this statement from Motherisk.

To speak to a registered dietitian for trusted advice on nutrition, you can contact Eat Right Ontario at 1-877-510-510-2, or visit their website at eatrightontario.ca


Family Medicine Obstetrics Open House

Want more information about nutrition and pregnancy? Nutrition is one of the topics that will be covered at Sunnybrook’s Family Medicine Obstetrics Community Open House on Saturday, June 10. Learn more and register.

About the author

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Annie Hoang

Annie Hoang is a Registered Dietitian with the Sunnybrook Academic Family Health Team.

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