Are you pregnant or wanting to become pregnant and wondering how you can best support yourself and a growing baby?
As per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is recommended that you eat at least 8-12 ounces of a variety of seafood per week.
The rich omega-3 fatty acids in seafood promote healthy fetal brain and nervous system development.
However, you must stick to eating seafood that is less in mercury content as that can harm the growing baby.
‘Eating for two’ is a popular phrase used to describe pregnancy that signifies the importance of diet during pregnancy.
It is crucial to understand how you can meet the demands of pregnancy and impact the growth and development of your baby.
Eating food will provide you and your baby with energy and nutrients. Your caloric needs during the first trimester remain the same as when not pregnant.
However, you can expect to increase your caloric intake by about 350kcal/day during your second trimester and about 450kcal/day in your third trimester.
Knowing you will need to eat more, how can you be sure what you eat is right for you and your baby?
Choosing foods can be confusing, so let’s examine what foods benefit pregnancy and whether seafood during pregnancy is safe.
Why is seafood good for pregnancy?
- Omega-3 fatty acid
- Vitamin B12
- Folic acids
The Food and Drug Administration advises dietary guidelines for Americans. They recommend pregnant women eat 8 to 12 ounces of seafood (2-3 servings) per week of a variety of seafood.
Harvard researchers have also found that some of these nutrients positively affect fertility. Specifically, the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) may improve women’s fertility. The MedDiet includes high amounts of fruits, vegetables, and legumes with moderate to high quantities of fish and small amounts of meat.
Why should you avoid certain seafood?
Some types of seafood may contain high levels of mercury, which can be bad for your baby’s developing brain. Avoid eating the following types of fish:
- Bigeye tuna
- King mackerel
- Orange roughy
Raw fish may contain Listeria, a bacteria that can lead to Listeriosis. One report identifies that 56% of raw fish samples were contaminated with Listeria. According to the Mayo Clinic, avoid raw fish or shellfish, including:
- Raw oysters
Fish and shellfish allergies are common, with approximately 2.3% of the population having one. If you have an allergy to seafood during pregnancy, you will want to ensure you avoid consuming it.
Additionally, if you are eating fish that is from local waters that you know about any local fish advisories. Some communities may post advice about eating fish due to food safety.
How can seafood affect the baby?
Mercury is a known neurotoxin. It accumulates in your body, and some children with mercury poisoning develop neurologic deficits, seizures, difficulty with speech, or difficulty with movement. One way you may come into contact with mercury is by consuming contaminated seafood, so it’s best to avoid seafood with high mercury levels.
Listeriosis infections may be mild for pregnant women. Still, they can have significant impacts on the baby, including neurological problems such as seizures, paralysis, intellectual disabilities, or damage to other organs. To lessen your chances of Listeriosis, avoid raw or undercooked seafood.
What other foods to avoid during pregnancy?
Your pregnancy increases your risk for some infections and foodborne illnesses such as food poisoning. You will want to avoid undercooked meats and eggs, luncheon meats, and unpasteurized dairy products to prevent these. Additionally, you will want to avoid unwashed produce.
Some beverages contain ingredients that cross the placenta and can affect your baby. Avoid consuming alcohol and limit the amount of caffeine you drink.
Can you eat shrimp while pregnant?
Shrimp are a low mercury seafood and not only safe to consume during pregnancy, but they are also rich in nutrients. They are high in omega 3 fatty acids involved with your baby’s brain and eye development and are an excellent source of iron.
Can you eat scallops while pregnant?
Scallops are a delicious and nutritious addition to your diet during pregnancy. Low in mercury and high in omega 3 fatty acids, they boost your baby’s brain development. They also contain magnesium, potassium, and trace elements such as copper, selenium, and zinc.
Can I eat crab while pregnant?
Crab can be included in your prenatal diet and makes the Food and Drug Administration list containing low mercury and one of the best seafood choices. It’s an excellent source of lean protein packed with minerals, including calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, and phosphorus.
Can I eat lobster during pregnancy during the first trimester?
Lobster is low in mercury and high in nutrients and is safe to eat throughout your pregnancy. The Environmental Protection Agency lists American and spiny lobster as a best choice for seafood.
What foods to eat during pregnancy?
The nutrients in your diet provide the building blocks for your baby’s baby’s body. A varied diet will provide a broad range of essential vitamins and minerals to support a healthy pregnancy. Although you may have cravings for specific foods, moderation is best. Pregnant women should consult with their health care provider to discuss their specific needs.
Fruits and Vegetables
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables will provide you with nutrients to nourish you and your growing baby.
The CDC recommends that women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant consume 400mcg of folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. Dark leafy greens and legumes are good sources of folic acid.
Dietary recommendations for pregnancy are to have 2-4 servings of fruit and four or more servings of vegetables per day. Fruits and veggies are low in calories and high in fiber, helping you to feel full and decrease symptoms of constipation commonly experienced during pregnancy.
6-8 servings of grains per day are recommended during pregnancy. Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oatmeal are high in fiber and a good source of B vitamins (B1, B2, folate, and niacin). Fortified cereals are a convenient choice and can also be a good source of iron.
Calcium supports the development of your baby’s musculoskeletal, nervous, and circulatory systems. When pregnant, you should aim to get 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Pasteurized milk, yogurts, and cheese are all excellent sources of calcium. As a bonus, dairy products are also a good source of protein.
During pregnancy, you should eat a minimum of 60 grams of protein per day. Protein is vital to brain and tissue development, building muscles, and blood cell production.
Proteins come in a variety of foods, including:
- Beans and legumes- black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, etc.
- Meats – chicken, beef, pork
- Nuts – almonds, cashews, pecans
- Seafood – fish, lobster, crab, shrimp, etc.
Reasons for a healthy diet during pregnancy
The foods you eat play an essential role during pregnancy. Your diet provides your baby with the nutrients to support the growth and development of its organs and tissues. You may also find that eating a healthy diet gives you more energy and helps your mental well-being.
Healthy eating includes eating various foods to maintain a healthy weight gain. Sometimes you may experience nausea and vomiting that make eating difficult—sticking with plain foods or foods you know you like may help.
Additionally, one study found that the ability to conceive and carry a pregnancy is affected by diet and nutrition. However, there’s not enough research to define specific guidelines relating to fertility.
Dietary choices during pregnancy directly impact your health and wellness and your baby’s development. Eating fish and shellfish is an excellent way to support the growth of your baby and can be safely integrated into your prenatal diet. Different types of seafood are loaded with nutrients and are a lean source of protein.
Moderation and preparation of seafood are key. You’ll want to make sure you limit yourself to 2-3 servings per week of low mercury fish and shellfish options, and to avoid foodborne illnesses, make sure the seafood you eat is fully cooked.
- A varied diet provides essential nutrients for a healthy pregnancy.
- Seafood is nutritious and many types may be included in your pregnancy diet.
- Some kinds of seafood contain high levels of mercury; avoid eating these during pregnancy.
- Limit low mercury seafood to 2-3 servings per week during pregnancy.
- Ensure seafood is thoroughly cooked to avoid certain food-borne illnesses.
- Many seafood options are high in omega 3 fatty acids that support healthy brain development of your baby.
- Crab, lobster, shrimp, and scallops may be included in your pregnancy diet.