This is our first guide in our new series where we dive into deeper detail about the common foods to avoid during pregnancy.
First up: fish! This is a tricky one and there’s a lot of misinformation out there about what fish to avoid, what fish are actually super healthy for you, and why. So if you’re pregnant (or plan to be!) check out the facts to make sure you only eat the right kind of fish so you and your baby avoid unnecessary risk.
Jump ahead to read more:
There are three main categories of fish to avoid during pregnancy – and it depends on both the size of the fish and the way it’s been prepared. In the table below, we’ve broken down the types and reasons you should avoid these foods during pregnancy.
|Category||Type of fish or dish||Why it’s not safe|
|Raw fish||Raw salmon
|You should avoid raw fish during pregnancy because it comes with a high risk of listeria, salmonella, and food poisoning – all issues that can become dangerous to you and baby.|
|Pre-cooked or smoked fish||Smoked salmon
|Pre-cooked or smoked fish comes with a high risk of bacterial contamination like listeria, which can be dangerous to you and baby.|
|Many larger fish are not recommended for consumption during pregnancy, even if they’re well cooked. It’s a food chain thing – because larger fish are eating LOTS of smaller fish as they grow, their mercury levels build up over time. Mercury has been proven harmful to developing babies, so these fish are best avoided.
Unlike the other categories, you may be able to consume a very small quantity of these larger fish, but it’s still safest if you avoid them.
Now that you know what types of fish aren’t safe for pregnant women, let’s talk a bit more about dishes and foods to avoid during pregnancy that have fish in them.
This is probably the biggest one that so many women miss during their pregnancies! Sushi is pretty tasty, right? And it can make for a fairly healthy meal! But so much of it is either made with raw fish or prepared on the same surfaces as other raw fish dishes. So it’s safest if you avoid sushi during pregnancy. But if you really need your sushi fix, you could always buy the ingredients yourself and make pregnancy-friendly sushi at home using fresh, cooked ingredients in your own kitchen.
This one is actually a triple-threat because it comes with smoked fish, raw runny egg, AND raw egg-based homemade sauce (we’ll cover raw egg in a future “foods to avoid during pregnancy series”). So if you’re out having breakfast at a cafe, consider going for a different dish like bacon and eggs (with the eggs done well). And if you’re at home, make a yummy English muffin with avocado instead.
If you’re a regular at the local fish and chip shop, you’ll need to stop and think about the type of fish you’re ordering to eat, especially if you buy it ready-to-eat. Common fish to avoid are swordfish/broadbill, shark/flake, marlin, and orange roughy/deep-sea perch. Common choices that are generally safe for you to eat are whiting, bream, mullet, squid, trout, salmon, and snapper.
Good news! You don’t have to avoid fish altogether. In fact, you can eat safely prepared fish with low mercury levels around 2-3 times per week (yay!) That includes:
Just make sure it’s been cooked properly and is served piping hot to minimise your risk of ingesting harmful bacteria.
But let’s say you DON’T like fish at all, especially not the pregnancy-safe fish listed above. And you don’t really feel like eating them (hello pregnancy food aversions) or you don’t think you’ll eat them often enough (guidelines say 2-3 serves per week).
How can you make sure you get the right nutrients when you don’t eat much or any fish at all?
The main nutrient you’ll miss from fish is Omega-3s. And these are actually super important because they’re part of the membranes that surround every cell in your body. And they’re crucial to loads of functions and body parts like your:
So it’s really important that you get Omega-3s from somewhere to help your body keep up with the demands of a growing baby – and help make all those cells for your baby’s body! Aside from fish, you can actually get Omega-3s from:
Read more in our article, I don’t like fish, how can I get enough Omega 3s?
Finally, let’s touch on food safety for a bit. Because no fish is going to be safe for you to eat during pregnancy unless it’s cooked and prepared properly to kill any bacteria on the surface.
Here’s how to know if the type of fish you’re preparing is properly cooked:
Plus, a few tips on food safety:
If all this sounds like a lot of effort… oh girl, we hear you. But pregnancy isn’t forever (thank goodness!) and you can go back to eating nearly all your old favourites (including all the fish we mentioned here) as soon as the baby is born. Although it’s still a good idea to be careful not to eat too much fish high in Mercury when you’re breastfeeding, or at any time!
A little tip… many new mums ask hospital visitors to bring their favourite forbidden foods in straight after birth (like sushi!). So don’t be afraid to be a bit of a diva – you’ll have earned it! And you’ll have something to look forward to for that first meal post-delivery that’s NOT hospital food.
Make healthy eating super easy for your pregnancy! When you follow our healthy meal plan, you’ll easily be able to swap meals and ingredients to work with your pregnancy needs. So that any foods to avoid during pregnancy are easy to cut out and substitute so you can enjoy a happy, healthy pregnancy.
And the best bit of all? We’ll be here with you, every step of the way, supporting you. From pregnancy to post-partum when you’re ready to start losing weight after pregnancy. Join the Healthy Mummy Community and sign up for our next 28 Day Challenge!