Like most women, you know eating a healthy, nutritious diet is important during pregnancy.
The reality is, though, there are times you really can’t be bothered cooking dinner and feel like take away.
Are you wondering, ‘Can I eat fish and chips while pregnant?’
Short answer: Yes, you can. There’s nothing quite like freshly cooked deep-fried fish and chips.
If you were a fish and chip fan before you became pregnant, the good news is you can indulge occasionally.
Or you might want to try other types of fish dinners.
Read on to find out what fish is safe to eat during pregnancy.
Is it safe to eat fish and seafood during pregnancy?
It’s a myth that fish and seafood should be avoided during pregnancy.
The FDA and EPA recommend eating 2-3 servings of a variety of fish and seafood per week during pregnancy.
One serving of fish is 2-3 ounces (60-90g). This means about 8 ounces (240g) of fish per week .
Of course, variety is the spice of life, so be adventurous.
We’ve put together a comprehensive list of fish that is safe to eat during pregnancy, as well as some guidelines on cooking methods.
The benefits of including fish in your diet far outweigh the risks of the small amounts of mercury in the fish on the safe list.
Can I eat fish and chips while pregnant?
Fish and seafood must be eaten hot, fresh and cooked right through.
The safest way to make sure fish is cooked through is to check the internal temperature.
Use a meat thermometer, inserted into the centre of the thickest part of the fish. Most fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145F (63C) to kill off harmful bacteria.
Perfectly cooked fish separates into flakes and appears pearly and opaque throughout. If the flesh appears translucent it’s still raw and needs more cooking time.
Fried fish is usually cooked in extremely hot oil, which kills harmful bacteria. Deep-fried is not always the healthiest option so enjoy it in moderation.
Watch your portion size, and add a green salad or other vegetables on the side.
Be adventurous with cooking methods.
Fish and seafood can be just as delicious grilled, baked or barbecued.
Clams, mussels and oysters should be cooked until their shells open. Discard any shellfish that don’t open as this is a clear sign the meat inside is bad.
Before cooking, check the shells for chips or cracks and discard any damaged shells. If the shell is damaged in any way it is an indication that the meat inside it is contaminated, which increases your risk of food poisoning.
Shrimp and lobster are low in mercury and have a high protein content.
You might want to dig out the prawn cocktail recipe – an 80s classics. You know the one I mean, right?
Take perfectly cooked prawns and pile them into half an avocado, with a drizzle of pink sauce. Avocados are low in carbs (yes, really) but rich in fibre and healthy fats, so it’s a winner dinner when you are pregnant.
Is sushi safe in pregnancy?
If you are a die-hard sushi fan you’ll be glad to know you can still indulge. You’ll need to make careful choices, though.
The sushi needs to be made fresh and preferably while you watch. Avoid store-bought sushi, even if it has a ‘best by’ date.
Avoid any sushi with raw or chilled fish. This includes peeled prawns, smoked salmon and any form of sashimi.
Sashimi is thinly sliced raw fish, served without rice. Nigiri sushi is made of thin slices of raw fish over pressed rice.
You should be avoid both nigiri sushi and sashimi, regardless of how fresh the fish is.
Stick with options that include vegetables and cooked seafood. Think rainbow rolls made with thinly sliced cucumber, carrot and avocado.
If you want to include some fish make sure it is a type of fish from the safe list (below), and cooked to an internal temperature of 145F (63C).
California rolls are often made with imitation crab meat, which is cooked, and made from low mercury fish.This makes them a safe choice.
There are also some great vegan sushi roll options, like cucumber maki and shitake mushroom rolls.
Always ask about the ingredients, to make sure there’s nothing hidden in your sushi roll that could be harmful to you or your baby.
Which fish is safe in pregnancy?
Any fish that has low levels of mercury is safe during pregnancy.
Fish has two essential fatty acids (EPA and DHA). These fatty acids are essential for your baby’s development and difficult to find in other foods.
Seafood is also a valuable source of protein, minerals, iodine and vitamin B12.
Find out more in Why Your Child’s Brain Needs Fish Oil.
Omega 3 fatty acids present in fish and seafood contribute to a healthy pregnancy by lowering the risk of preeclampsia, low birth weight and preterm labour.
Fish and seafood are healthy food choices during pregnancy and can be enjoyed a variety of ways. If there’s a raised eyebrow when you place your order, it’s because of the misconception that all fish should be avoided during pregnancy.
Certainly, let your fishmonger know that you’re pregnant and request freshly caught fish.
Fresh fish has moist flesh and a mild scent. If the odour is strong and particularly ‘fishy’, it’s not fresh and should be avoided.
If you buy whole fresh fish, make sure the gills are bright red or pink and the eyes are bright and bulging.
Avoid buying any fish that’s been standing or stored as you don’t know how long it’s been there.
Frozen fish is safe to eat but it should also meet the same test – a fresh smell and no strong fishy odour when you remove the packaging.
Avoid buying frozen food if the package has signs of frost or ice crystals. This means the fish has been stored a long time or has been thawed and refrozen.
When you go shopping, take a thermal cooler bag packed with ice or icepacks to keep the fish frozen during transport. Frozen fish can spoil if it thaws or is left at high temperatures for too long.
We’ve put a handy list together, so when the craving hits, you’ll know what to order.
You can choose fish from this list up to three times per week. Aim for variety and try to limit the less healthy options for cooking.
Top 10 safe fish to eat during pregnancy
This is a comprehensive list of the top 10 fish that are safe to eat during pregnancy:
- Yellowfin tuna
- Mahi Mahi
Which fish are not safe during pregnancy?
There are a few fish that have mercury content at levels toxic to you and your growing baby. These fish should be completely avoided, whether they are battered, baked or wrapped in sushi rice.
Mercury can harm your baby’s developing nervous system and brain.
Even though nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of methylmercury, only larger fish have levels that are toxic.
As long as you avoid the fish listed below, it’s safe to enjoy a variety of fish and seafood throughout your pregnancy.
The following fish have high levels of mercury and should be avoided:
- King mackerel
- Orange roughy
- Ahi tuna
- Bigeye tuna
- Flake (shark)
There you have it.
‘Can I eat fish and chips while pregnant?’ You certainly can.
You can still enjoy a wide variety of fish during pregnancy and it might even be a good opportunity to explore new recipes that include all the fish from the safe list.
You can still enjoy sitting at your local sushi bar and watching those little coloured plates go by as you make healthy choices of vegetable and cooked fish sushi.
You can even treat yourself occasionally at the fish and chip shop.
Pair your fish with leafy green salads or nourishing root vegetables. Grill it, bake it or throw it on the barbecue.
However you choose to prepare it, fish is the perfect pregnancy food.