Seafood 101:
Safe Seafood for Pregnancy

Las Vegas is a mecca for seafood lovers. The city’s restaurants offer an abundance of fresh, healthy seafood options. Trout, crab, shrimp, and salmon are just a few of the delicious choices available. And there’s no need to worry about overindulging; many of the city’s seafood restaurants offer small plates and light fare. So whether you’re looking for a quick lunch or a leisurely dinner, you’re sure to find the perfect seafood dish in Las Vegas.

The main things women aren’t supposed to consume when they’re pregnant have been joked about and complained about so much it seems to be common knowledge at this point — no smoking, no drinking, no caffeine, and definitely no seafood. But did you know that the “no seafood rule” is a broad generalization that is only partially true?

Contrary to popular belief, certain kinds of seafood during pregnancy can be perfectly safe if eaten in moderation. The main thing to avoid is specific fish known for having high levels of mercury, as this can be harmful to a growing fetus. This means that even if you’re going to be pregnant on your next Vegas vacation, you can still feast on some of the best seafood, Las Vegas strip style. 

Keep reading to learn more about what kinds (and what quantities) of seafood are perfectly safe during pregnancy.

How much seafood is safe for pregnant women to eat? 

While many still believe pregnant women simply should not be eating fish, this isn’t the case. On the contrary, seafood eaten moderately can be a good choice when it comes to high-nutrient foods for pregnancy. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even recommend that pregnant women eat between 4-12 ounces of low-mercury seafood per week as part of a healthy diet.

What seafood is safe for pregnant women to eat? 

According to the EPA and the FDA, fish contains high levels of iron, iodine, choline, and the healthy fats omega-3 (DHA and EPA) and omega-6, which means that fish eaten during pregnancy can actually assist with your baby’s brain and spinal cord development. Pregnant women can choose 4-12 ounces per week from the list of fish below.

Seafood that is safe for baby include:

  • Anchovies
  • Black sea bass
  • Butterfish
  • Catfish
  • Cod
  • Crab
  • Crawfish
  • Flounder
  • Freshwater trout
  • Haddock
  • Hake
  • Herring
  • Herring
  • Lobster
  • Pacific mackerel
  • Pickerel
  • Plaice
  • Pollock
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Scallops (fully cooked)
  • Shrimp
  • Skate
  • Smelt
  • Sole
  • Squid
  • Tilapia
  • Tuna (canned only, limit to 6 ounces/week)
  • Whitefish

What seafood is not safe for pregnant women to eat? 

Women who are trying to get pregnant or are already pregnant should not eat the following seafood due to the high mercury content and risk of illness from bacteria, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Seafood to avoid during pregnancy: 

  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel
  • Tilefish
  • Sushi
  • Sashimi
  • Any fish that is uncooked (even if it says “smoked” or “jerkied”)
  • Raw oysters
  • Clams

The FDA and EPA also include the following on their list of seafood that is off-limits during pregnancy:

  • Orange roughy
  • Tuna (bigeye)
  • Marlin

Non-seafood foods that are also not safe to eat during pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Deli meat
  • Hot dogs
  • Any unpasteurized foods
  • Any unwashed produce
  • Refrigerated pates
  • Refrigerated meat spreads
  • Excessive caffeine (try to consume less than 200 mg per day) 
  • Herbal tea
  • Alcohol

Why it’s important to be careful when eating seafood during pregnancy: 

According to the Mayo Clinic, certain types of seafood contain levels of mercury that are particularly high. While these levels of mercury aren’t a risk for a full-grown person, if too much mercury builds up in the bloodstream, it can harm an unborn baby’s nervous system (particularly its brain). However, this doesn’t mean pregnant women should give up all seafood for nearly a whole year of their lives. Just be wary of fish that are known for containing mercury at high levels.

What are the dangers of mercury for your baby? 

According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, high levels of mercury in the blood increase the chance that your baby could be born with cerebral palsy and/or cognitive impairment.

Are there risks if I give up fish? 

It’s possible. The aforementioned study published by the National Library of Medicine results implies that babies born to mothers who quit eating seafood altogether during pregnancy are less likely to do well in science and math compared to mothers who do consume seafood during pregnancy (at least that is what the results of this study show). 

Can I eat caviar during pregnancy?

According to the FDA, children and pregnant women should only eat fish, meat, poultry, and eggs that have been thoroughly cooked to prevent ingesting microbes that small bodies are sensitive to. Since caviar is often consumed raw, eating this during pregnancy is not worth the risk.

What are the best foods during pregnancy?

When it comes to the optimal diet for a healthy pregnancy, the best suggestion is going to be a balanced diet with a tad more focus on vitamins and nutrients that assist in healthy fetal development. According to the Cleveland Clinic, pregnant women should consume somewhere between 200-300 extra calories with an extra focus on calcium, protein, folic acid, iron, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone capable of becoming pregnant take a supplement containing 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid per day and eat foods containing folic acid to prevent neural tube defects in unborn babies.

Foods with folic acid:

According to the CDC, foods containing folic acid include:

  • Citrus fruits such as oranges  
  • Vegetables such as broccoli, dark leafy greens, peas, and asparagus
  • Beans and lentils
  • Enriched foods such as cereals, corn chips, pasta, rice, or tortillas (check labels)

Foods with DHA: 

According to the National Institutes of Health, DHA is primarily found in seafood, which is part of why it is recommended that women who are pregnant consume 8-12 ounces per week of pregnancy-safe seafood (see above). One study found that women who consumed 8 ounces of seafood per week had better infant health outcomes.

Foods with iron: 

According to the Cleveland Clinic, pregnant and lactating women should consume 27 mg of iron daily (between your diet and prenatal vitamin). Foods containing iron include:

  • Lean beef or pork
  • Dried fruit
  • Beans
  • Sardines
  • Leafy greens 

Foods with calcium: 

This same Cleveland Clinic study states that pregnant and lactating women should consume 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day. Foods containing calcium include:

  • Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese (the best source)
  • Fish
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Fortified foods such as cereals, orange juice, and bread (check labels)
  • Almonds
  • Sesame seeds

Foods with protein:

Everyone needs a different amount of protein based on individual size. To figure out how much protein you need, divide how much you weighed before you became pregnant by two. For example, a woman who weighed 140 pounds before becoming pregnant would need 70 grams of protein per day. Foods containing protein include:

  • Seafood
  • Lean meat
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Soy products
  • Nuts (unsalted)
  • Seeds (unsalted)

At Aqua Seafood & Caviar Restaurant, you can view our menu to plan a delicious pregnancy-safe meal.

If you’re visiting (or live in) Sin City, check out some of the fantastic restaurants in Resorts World. While it’s true that pregnant women should be cautious when eating seafood to avoid high levels of mercury and microorganisms that could potentially harm a fetus, some seafood can be one of the best high-nutrient foods for pregnancy. A couple of servings of seafood per week can be the ideal source of the healthy fats and protein your baby needs to properly grow and thrive.

Come join us for dinner at Aqua Seafood & Caviar Restaurant, where you’ll find a scrumptious selection of seafood plus chicken, Wagyu beef, and duck, all in an upscale environment.