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Melissa Rifkin MS, RD, CDN

Melissa Rifkin is a registered dietitian based in Connecticut founder of @confessionofadietitian.

You are likely familiar with the health benefits associated with fish—it’s a source of lean protein and heart-healthy fats—but if you are an expecting mom, you’ve probably also heard at least once that it’s “not safe” to consume seafood while pregnant.

Is there any weight behind this claim?

As a registered dietitian and mother getting ready to welcome her second child this May, I feel a personal responsibility to share why I still feel comfortable eating certain fish while pregnant. I also feel it is important to share why I choose certified sustainable seafood for my kids and for a Big Blue Future.

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Is Seafood Safe to Eat if I’m Pregnant?

I have always been a fish lover and make it part of my weekly menu. Salmon, tuna, and cod… oh my! You name it, I like it. Pregnant or not, I will continue to choose seafood options that are sustainably sourced to protect wildlife and the ecosystem—and I encourage you to do the same. 

However, during pregnancy there are a few health notes to keep in mind when it comes to your seafood choices:
Omega-3s: These essential fats are not found highly concentrated in many animal products—seafood being a major exception. Omega-3 is important for both mom and baby, as it is crucial for brain health and development of your little one, and plays many other roles for mom, like aiding in heart health and fighting inflammation. Consider adding omega-3s through fatty fish, such as wild-caught salmon or tuna.
Mercury: This naturally occurring element can cause worrisome health issues, especially for a growing baby in utero, when consumed in too high amounts. While it is best to avoid high-mercury fish during your pregnancy, like swordfish and king mackerel, there are plenty of seafood options you can enjoy without concern. Wild salmon, sardines, anchovies are all naturally low in mercury. 

Still concerned? There are MSC certified products out there that test each individual product’s mercury level before hitting store shelves worth checking out.

Why Make the Switch to Certified Sustainable Seafood? 

After having my first baby, my perspective on so many topics shifted, including the impact of my dietary choices on the environment and how the food I choose for my family is sourced. While I have always been mindful of my efforts to support the environment, I was not familiar with the damaging effects overfishing has on our ocean. 

(Did you know that over 1/3 of our oceans are overfished, according to the United Nations?)

Through the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) work to keep our oceans healthy for future generations, I have learned so much about this topic and it influenced my decision to choose sustainable fish options that have the MSC blue fish label and work with them to share the benefits of certified sustainable seafood with others

Of course, I want to feed my family amazing fish that supplies them with valuable nutrients, but I want to do it in a way that protects the oceans, and more, so they can enjoy everything the ocean and lakes offer for decades to come. 

Sustainable Seafood: The Unsung Hero of Easy Weeknight Meals

Outside of being nutritious, one of the other reasons I eat seafood frequently is that it is surprisingly easy to prepare. Canned options can be easily combined with Greek yogurt, dill and seasoning to make a “salad” that can be served over lettuce, whole grain crackers or bread. 

Fish filets can be pan cooked, baked, or grilled with a seasoning or marinade of your choosing. 

Shellfish, like shrimp, can easily be bought pre-cooked and served chilled on its own, over a salad, or heated and served in your favorite pasta dish or stir fry.

Choosing sustainable seafood with the MSC stamp of approval has become a priority for me, and there is no looking back. Knowing that each choice I make can benefit the environment for my little one’s is beyond motivating enough to put mindfulness into my seafood choices. 

In summary, mommas-to-be can absolutely enjoy a few servings of low mercury fish each week that will provide valuable nutrients for yourself and baby. When choosing the seafood you serve at home, look for MSC’s blue fish label to ensure you’re choosing options that are wild caught, sustainably sourced, and verified to meet the high standards of the MSC. 

Melissa Rifkin is a registered dietitian based in Connecticut and the brains behind Instagram account @confessionofadietitian. Follow her for more evidence-based health advice and family-friendly recipe inspiration.